Last Spring, amid working of drafts of my upcoming book Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles, I managed to squeeze in a few other writing projects, including a personal essay on embroidery and community called Stitching It Together for Betsy Greer‘s new anthology Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism.
Without giving away too much, the essay discusses my experience of teaching craft, the value that I see in it, and how communities can come together around making.
I feel honoured to be included in a book that really is a whose-who of the current craftivism movement – among my favourite parts of the book are an essay called Don’t Get Angry, Get Cross-Stitch by Jamie Chalmers, the beloved Mr. X Stitch; and an interview with Maria Molteni of NCAA New Works, a fibre artist that makes nets for forlorn basketball hoops; and an essay by filmmaker Faythe Levine (the brains behind Handmade Nation and more recently, the Sign Painters movie) on craft as a method of empowerment. This is truly a wonderful collection, and I’d recommend it even if I wasn’t involved in the project. The more time I spend with this book, the more I find to re-read and savour.
The past two weeks have also been busy ones for me as I’ve finished book edits on Strange Material (cover art debuting very soon!) and I’m planning a highly-creative, East Coast/West Coast book tour for the fall with Betsy Greer and the fabulous Kim Werker of Make it Mighty Ugly. If you know of a tour venue that we must visit in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, DC, Toronto, or New York; please drop me a line in the comments below.
The manuscript for my new book Strange Material is due in exactly one month. While I’ve been stealing away to coffee shops on my lunch hour and turning down plans with friends over the past few months in order to write, nothing works better for me than having long stretches of time to mentally meander, run word-counts as a mark of my progress, and simply write without a time constraint. I learned long ago that if I promise to go somewhere at 8 pm, my mind takes a unwarranted vacation from the hours of noon until 8 pm just because I know that I am going somewhere later. Likewise, if I’ve promised myself that I’ll write, but instead find myself out for drinks with friends – I’ll end up being angsty (and a sheer joy to hang out with) because in the back of my mind I’m thinking about what I should be doing at my desk. So, ever so often, I need to go into hermit-mode. This week, I’ve taken four days off of my day job to do nothing but write.
With each of my books, I’ve been lucky to have weeks of time away from the world in order to think. I’ve house-sat for my parents. I’ve stayed in friends’ guest rooms. And I’ve made myself stay home. I’ve tried to ignore Facebook. I’ve spent less time on Twitter. I’ve even ignored email. I’ve forcibly stopped myself from playing with Pinterest, or dreaming up apartment decor ideas from DesignSponge, or fantasizing that I will one day live in a fabulous loft and collect abstract art for sale at www.saatchionline.com. I’d like to be planning something crazy for Halloween or sewing the latest Colette pattern, but for now I’m content with writing. I keep a list of these diversions to be my reward when the project is over.
I often find myself asked how I take on long writing projects – especially while working full time, and my first answer is ‘I don’t know’. But really, I rely on a couple of simple tools:
- The eloquent and classily named ‘butt in chair’ technique. Frankly, if you want to write, you have to sit in the same place for a certain amount of time. I set myself a goal of how long I plan to write most days. I also set myself a word-count, usually 500 – 700 words a day when I’m working on a long project.
- Lunch hours – I often eat at my desk while working so that I can go to a coffee shop and write for during my lunch hour. I find I can accomplish a lot in 45 minutes when I know I have to be back at the office.
- For days off and long stretches of time alone, I’ve found the Pomodoro Technique is life-changing. I’m not usually one to prescribe to others methods of working but this one works for me. You work for 25 minute increments, you take a five minute break, and then you start again. On my ‘writing retreat’ dates, I set myself goals of four 25 minute writing stretches with 5 minute stretch/tea making breaks, a one hour lunch break, and then four pomoderos to follow. You can use a kitchen timer for this technique, but I prefer a free app called Focus Booster on my mac which turns colour as my time is winding down. I wrote my entire last book using this method.
- Rest. Some days, no matter how hard you try – nothing comes. This is when I turn to things like a long walk, a bike ride, cooking something healthy, or napping. Some days I get to my goals in a matter of hours, some days I know that I’ll procrastinate for several hours until I start to feel the fire of getting down to things. This is part of my process, and no matter how much I try to resist, I’ve realized is just better to accept that this is the way that I work.
Interested in learning more about the process of craft book writing? Last year I wrote this post on how to pitch a non-fiction DIY title.
I’ve never been one to make new year’s resolutions that have to do with fitness or travel. While I enjoy the idea of a new year being a transition or a time of change, I tend to spend less time thinking of what I want to CHANGE, and more of what I simply want to DO. In 2012 I spent a lot of time focused on teaching workshops and public speaking engagements. In 2013, I want to write more. I want to write articles, another book, and many more blog posts. I intend to continue to blog about design and craft and community DIY – including knit graffiti but not only about knit graffiti. For this reason, I’ve decided to retire yarnbombing.com, my blog of four and a half years.
For the past five years, yarnbombing.com has been a big part of my life. Maintaining a blog on the subject has been an incredible experience. I’ve received emails daily from knitters from all over the world. I’ve been included in documentaries and in magazines and newspapers. I was quoted in the New York Times. I’ve been invited to participate in conferences, and I’ve had the opportunity to drop into a little community that I’ve created all hours of the day. I’ve found it inspiring, fun, but often, overwhelming. I have received a lot of emails and comments through the site that I simply haven’t been able to respond to. When I wrote my second book Hoopla and tried to give it as second home on the web just for subversive embroidery, it was too much to maintain content on two subjects in two places. This coming year, in order to keep my blogging life fun and active, I’ve decided to streamline my place on the web to this site leanneprain.com. I still want to write about yarn bombing and knitting and community installation, but I no longer feel the need to keep a record dedicated exclusively to doing so as there are so many websites, Pinterest boards, and tumblr feeds now dedicated to the subject.
It is my intention to leave yarnbombing.com up so that the archives are accessible. I’ll still post about yarn bombing opportunities here and on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. If you have something to share with me, you can always email via the Contact page on this site. I’m continuing to do workshops and public talks on yarn bombing too – but my focus will be here on this eponymous site.
As for 2013, I’m looking to develop leanneprain.com to have loads of craft and design content, some web freebies, updates on my new book projects (including submission calls), exciting DIY projects, and some better photographs (I’m taking some photography lessons and I will try to not rely only on my iphone for pictures). I hope you will come back and join me here from time to time.
What do you want to do with your time in 2013?
Collected iphone pictures from a weekend in Winnipeg. Bottom right hand corner picture by Diane Farnsworth.
I was thrilled to be part of my friend Kim Clarke’s book launch at McNally Robinson Winnipeg last weekend. Addie Sinclaire: Vortex of Doom is the second in a series of books that Kim has written for young adults. I feel so fortunate to have known Kim as she wrote both this book, and the first in the series Cul de Sac Moon. We have been in writers’ groups together for over ten years. Many of the locations mentioned in the books are in Winnipeg (such as the Star Grille), so we spent some time visiting ‘literary’ haunts.
Over the time that I’ve known Kim, I’ve read many drafts of her two books. Characters have developed, the situations have changed, papers have been marked up, paragraphs have been tossed aside. In the process of writing these two books, Kim has invented and eliminated parts of her protagonist’s world time and time again. She’s gotten feedback from her high school students, her writing friends, and school counselors who are familiar with some of the themes in the book about substance abuse; all the while sticking to her vision of a story that is quirky, intelligent, and fun.
In addition to being an author, Kim has fearlessly stepped into the world of self-publishing by publishing the series under her own moniker Pink Wig Publishing. Coming from a traditional publishing background myself, I’ve watched her with great interest and I have to say, Kim has flawlessly navigated the pressures of being her own publisher.
Kim does something that so many self-publishing authors do not do – she relies on the help of other people to help her execute her vision. Professional editors and designers worked on both books, a printer and distributor supplied both hardcopy and ebooks, and Kim organizes her book launches with one of the best bookstores in the country. When it came to the launch, Kim arrived with printed signs, catering, and thoughtful giveaways that were wrapped to match the book cover. Instead of being an author trying to stand out within a publisher’s stable of authors, Kim is a one woman business whose books and marketing flawlessly come together as one package under her support. She is committed to doing things right and I’ve never seen her cut corners. If this is the future of self-publishing, I’m very hopeful for the state of writing and author entrepreneurship.
I am so very proud of my friend, and I expect great things for the future from Addie Sinclair: Vortex of Doom and the rest of the books that will come in the series.
Isn’t she cute? Cynara and her cat Autumn.
A few months ago, I wrote a little post on my experience of being a published craft book author. But, an author’s perspective is only one side of the story – there are many, many others involved in the process of creating a book: my editor, my publisher, the printer, the production person, the book designer, the photographer, the contributors, the distributor, the booksellers, and of course, the marketer – mine being the promotional wunderkind Cynara Geissler.
Cynara was recently interviewed about her job and all of the amazing things she does for my books over at Craft Buds (who are declaring September as Craft Book Month – Huzzah!). Read her interview here and learn about all of the many things that she does for me: http://www.craftbuds.com/craft-book-marketing-arsenal-pulp-press-giveaway.
Like most people who work in publishing, Cynara has a number of creative talents. In addition to being a snappy dresser (think leopard print nails, rainbow hair, arm parties of bangles), she is a published writer – get her book of poetry Small Stunted Ways over at HUR Publishing. Cynara also publishes the smart pop culture/media podcast Fatties On Ice. She’s one busy bee and I’m glad that I’ve got her in my corner.
The Cover of Small Stunted Ways
Speaking of promotion: I’ll be at the Kamloops Art Gallery this weekend giving a talk on Yarn Bombing and teaching an easy yarn-related craft (no need to know how to knit or crochet to join in). The talk will be on September 29th from 1-3 pm. If you live in the Kamloops area, come out and say hi! I’d love to meet you and hear about your experiences with knit graffiti. More details at http://www.kag.bc.ca.