• art,  book,  books,  storytelling,  writing

    A Thing That Happened

    Sometime in the middle of the month, I wrote THE END on the first draft of my novel, THE MOZART GIRL.

    It’s a biopic about Nannerl Mozart and yes, there is a tremendous amount of work to do yet, and I am getting ready to jump with both feet into the revisions now that Christmas has passed.

    I’m excited.

    This is the first completed novel that I’ve written as an adult and it has been a long and meandering journey to do it. I’ve already learned so much about what to do next time, because it has taken me three times as long as it should have to complete what I have. I’ll be throwing out a lot of material, since it’s about twice as long as it ought to be, but I love that, because it means that what I keep will be improved for it.

    It’s the time of year where we set our resolutions and intentions for the new year and there can only be one for me, which is to finish the damn novel already. I took my first steps in this story line four years ago, though the story that I began to write back then was a completely different story arc from the one I settled on. But I have been thinking about the Mozart family for half a decade now and I am, dare I say it, pleased with where the work has taken me.

    This is a book that has been written in the margins of my life, in the crevices formed between other obligations, in the hours after bedtime and before the work day, in the minutes stolen between the endless march of all my other responsibilities. And it has been written in dribs and drabs, sometimes in little spurts of energy, and sometimes in long months of sustained effort that have required sacrificing personal relationships as I raced to a word count that was both arbitrary and exhausting.

    2016 and 2017 were the years I researched my novel. 2018 was the year that I wrote it. 2019 is the year in which I remold it until it is fit to be shown to the world. And then, what will happen then? Will I finally believe that this is a thing that I can do?

  • art,  house

    Kitchen Remodeling

    I’ve been thinking a lot about space lately, which is a pretty natural offshoot of my house having been taken over for the kitchen remodeling project. Since Hurricane Sandy, my house has been in an almost constant uproar. It began the night of the hurricane, when we saw the water coming near us and quickly moved everything from our basement to our ground floor. Then we had no electricity, but were safe from water damage, so we moved everything back. In the dark, which went about as well as you might expect. Then the house went topsy-turvy as things were moved about as we tried to navigate a dark and cold world for two weeks until the power was restored.  (On the upside, without telly, my beloved will get bored enough to clean the fridge – and I will get bored enough to mop all the floors.  True fact.)

    Not long after power was restored, my beloved began remodeling our kitchen. There was a special reason to do it in December, relating to his work schedule, but I was very wary of the effect not having a kitchen would have on Christmas. It turns out that I was right, but we got by. It’s amazing what you can cook on a barbeque. The immediate result of the kitchen remodeling, other than the way it took over my life in terms of my spare time, was that the kitchen now became scattered all over the house. The cat food is in the guest bedroom, the teas are in the basement, the nice glasses are underneath my fiber arts table. The dishes are sitting in my entrance hall, while the new cooking station, with our microwave and toaster oven, are sitting in the dining room. My stove and dishwasher spent a solid month in the back yard.  We’ve done a fairly good job of keeping things organized, but the kitchen stores a lot of items.  There’s only so much you can do.

    The physical chaos has bothered me a lot.  I’m not the neatest person the planet, but I do like things to be put away when they’re not in use. Clutter disturbs and upsets me. A little untidiness isn’t so bad, but when the task becomes “clear the place where you make art” rather than “make art”, things begin to fall apart.  The first week of kitchen chaos was pretty terrible for me, but then I decided to dig in and do whatever I could to get my kitchen back.  I had dreams of it being back in place by New Years, which didn’t happen, but it’s starting to happen now.  I spent last weekend painting the walls, after which we started moving the appliances back in.  We only have a few things left to do – putting in a window that was removed by the previous owners and installing the cabinets, then ordering the new counter top.  They’re all now in a period of waiting for things to arrive, so at last, we have time to do something other than work on the kitchen.  The cabinets will arrive on Tuesday, the window this Friday.  So we’re nearly there.

    The kitchen is looking beautiful.  We’ve replaced the brown theme with creams and silver, torn down a wall and added a window.  Instead of being a little dark cave, we’ve made it into a spacious and light space that’s going to be a beautiful new heart of the home.  Once everything is back, the next spot that’s going to get the treatment is my fiber arts space, which is currently utterly chaotic.  Before we began the kitchen, I asked my beloved if he would build me a custom cabinet that I designed in order to fit all my various spinning, knitting, weaving, sewing, drawing, photography, etc. tools.  Now that I’ve spent a month doing demolition, learning how to use a cordless drill, sawing at tiled floors, painting and project managing, I’ve asked him to teach me how to make it my own damn self.  Because we all know that what I needed was to add in carpentry to my list of hobbies.

  • art,  house,  writing


    December has passed by in a whirl of days, filled with so much activity that I’ve barely been able to breathe. We’ve been in the middle of a little bit of an impulse kitchen remodel and it has gotten fairly out of hand (which is to say, we’ve ended up ripping out and replacing everything). It is starting to move towards completion, minus the cabinets and counter tops that may not arrive for another six weeks, but it certainly made hosting Christmas dinner interesting. This year, I find myself grateful for propane and a barbeque. The rest of Christmas ended up being much of a non-event, as I’ve been busy ripping out sheet rock, helping tile floors, project managing and researching and ordering windows, dish washers and microwaves, caulking and painting rather than getting into the Yuletide spirit. I find I’m in it now, after the holiday has safely passed. Here’s to next year.

    Pictures of the remodel soon, as soon as the after pictures are something to look at.

    I have also been reading Steven King’s The Stand, which is compulsive and over a thousand pages, which has rather killed my productivity. I’ve never read King before, always being shy of horror novels, so I’ve rather had my mind blown so far. He’s a master writer, who draws a character sketch possibly better than anyone else I’ve ever read. I am certain there will be more in the near future. I’m told the Dark Tower series is also compelling. I am a little horrified that I let over thirty years go by before picking up his work – it’s a good lesson on how it’s a good idea to not limit yourself from a reading perspective because of genre.

    My New Years Resolution for 2013? Read, read, read, write, write, write. As with last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. I have actually been successful each year at fitting more writing in, but I’m still struggling with certain elements of technique. I want to fit in some more writing instruction this year than I have in the last few, not having taken a class since I graduated. It’s going to happen…just as soon as I have a stove to cook on.

  • art,  introspection

    The Game of Life

    When I was little, I used to play this board game with my friends called The Game of Life.  For those not familiar with it, there’s a long wiggly track that your car shaped piece has to travel.  Along the way, you go through life’s milestones in a typically linear fashion; you graduate high school, acquire massive debt, get a college degree, find a job, get married, buy a house (more debt), have kids and retire.  (They left death out; a rather massive oversight.)  Whoever retires with the most cash wins.  Not so different from how many people think, is it?

    Of course, being the sort of person who just can’t accept expectations, my strategy for the game generally was to roll the dice (well, a spinner) in such a way that I avoided college debt and getting a job entirely.  Such limitations were just not for me.  I would then careen around the board, making deals where I could, making certain that if I had to get married that it was a same-sex marriage, and avoiding having kids if possible or — if not, making sure that I had so many that they could barely fit in my car.  As a strategy, this worked out well. Unless an opponent managed to become a doctor, I nearly always won.  I was happy (and hilarious) in my Bohemian lifestyle.

    Last summer I played the newest edition of the game and I discovered that they’ve now made it impossible to play with my strategy.  You cannot get out of the first section of the game without acquiring a job.  Harrumph. I lost, despite avoiding college debt and my perfectly respectable salary as a policewoman. 

    I found myself thinking about The Game of Life the other morning as I was climbing out the subway steps at Wall Street, as I do five days out of seven.  This is the moment in my commute where the upcoming work day really becomes inevitable.  Being a train commuter, my brain is my own until then.  On my more motivated days, I fill it was the artistic stuff that I feel like I never have enough time to do.  I write or knit or read.  The days I write are the most satisfying; it’s what every adult in my childhood told me I should do with my life and a big part of me still feels like a failure for not having made a living from it like I was supposed to.  Shouldn’t I be published by now?  Living in a big house in the middle of nowhere with my car overflowing with kids and no nine-to-five?

    And so I sighed and turned the corner, tucking my artistic side inside myself until the commute home.  I put on my business face and walked into that skyscraper, into that office filled almost exclusively with men, and I conquered.  I was good at it.  And yet…and yet, some days I wish I had taken that Bohemian lifestyle, that I had settled for less stuff and less security and insisted on doing more art. Every day feels like a fight to blend the two and some days are just more successful than others.

    Perhaps, some day…

  • art,  writing


    I wish I were a less erratic blogger. I have to set myself reminders on a calendar to keep posting here, which seems a strange thing to do, when so many bloggers seem to have so much more to say. And, with so many things, I think the problem is regular practice. I have no limit of ideas of what to blog about, but somehow when I sit down here and write, I find that my words often feel vapid. Delete, delete. It’s not writing that I have a problem with – it’s the shyness of performing for an audience that I have to work to overcome. As I have grown older, I have grown more private and a blog is, in many ways, the opposite of that. When I first started this blog, I thought I’d do it completely anonymously, to give myself more freedom to write freely without worrying that I might be offending Great Aunt Mildred. (This has happened anyway). But as time went on, people found out and, ironically, most of the people who read it are actually people I know. And I don’t like offending Great Aunt Mildred.

    So I talk on and on about my projects instead, which are too varied to make this any one kind of blog. That’s my problem generally – I am doing so many different types of things that I can never focus in on one thing long enough to master it. Lately I have been in a writer’s fog, working on a (okay, I’ll say it for the first time) novel-length piece of fiction. That’s about all I want to say about it now, because when I talk about my writing projects out loud, I start to think they’re dumb and then I *stop writing*. I’ve also received a table loom on long-term loan from an aunt, so I’ve been teaching myself to weave. I’ve also ordered some patterns for some dresses, so that I can teach myself to sew a bit better and have some dresses that actually fit my narrow, but top-heavy frame. And, I’m working on Pachebel’s Canon in D for the piano, because I take lessons. There’s something about a wedding in there. And on and on.

    In my brain, much of it is related, but I can see how the connections are not immediately obvious. So really, it’s my own bloody fault that I can’t focus. There is just so much to *do* before I die and not nearly enough time to get it all done. This is the real reason I don’t watch much TV (and thus don’t knit and spin as much as I’d *like* to). I’m in a constant panic that I won’t learn all the things that I want to learn before I die.

    I do understand that this makes me weird. Every great once in a while I come across someone with the same sort of incessant internal drama and we have an immediate kinship of spirit. It’s nice. Unfortunately, we don’t get much done, because we’re the scattered interests enter a biofeedback loop and become infinitely more scattered. So I give up and go off and read instead, which is another distraction.

    Come on, focused people with successful blogs – how do you *do* it? How do you fit it into your schedule and make blogging work with your life? Where do you find your motivation?

  • art,  music

    Make Good Art

    Like everyone else in the world, I have watched, and been delighted by, Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.  He’s a hero to a lot of writers, including myself, because he’s lived the dream and done it extremely successfully.  He’s a very creative writer, which is what I admire most about him.  Left to my own devices, I tend to write magic realism, so I appreciate a man who can write a novel about the gods that came to America with the immigrants, or another one about a living boy being raised in a graveyard by ghosts.  His work is my kind of inspiration.

    My writing is a nearly constant point of frustration for me, as I am forever in that quest of *finding time*.  I did buy a Gtablet a few months ago to help me write on the train, which has definitely improved the amount of writing that I’m doing, as well as the number of times that I post to this blog.  I am on the train now, riding high above the streets and typing away.  But it doesn’t feel like enough.  I want to write fiction, but I never seem to be able to block out enough time to work with the inspiration.  Work (not a nine to five occupation, at that), keeping the Kid in line and fed and the housework from piling up, planning the wedding, even spinning and knitting and my piano practice – all are constant interruption.  They’re fulfilling, obviously, but I still have the nagging sense that I should be *doing more*.   And I should.  I should be writing every day.  I should write on the good days.  I should write on the bad days.I should be aspiring to make good art.  Every.  Single.  Day.

    High words and very inspiring.

    The other bit from his speech that I really took home with me was how sometimes sharing your art feels like running naked through a field for the entire world to feel.  This is certainly something that I struggle with; sharing my art with others is very difficult.  Posting in this blog is hard enough, despite its tiny readership.  For Gaiman, this feeling nearly promises success.  For me, it makes me spend a full twenty-four hours wondering if I shouldn’t take that blog post down, while I bite my fingernails and worry.  Sometimes I do.  My Mother’s Day post feels like that.  I am never quite sure if I want to be more successful of a writer, because then it means that people will actually read what I write.  Then they’ll judge what I’ve said and maybe change how they feel about me.  This is not a comfortable feeling.  But I think when it’s achieved, then honesty has also been achieved.  An uncomfortable honesty, but isn’t all honesty uncomfortable?  It takes courage, this writing business.  And when it’s honest and it’s courageous, then it begins to be art worth paying attention to.  At least if you’re Neil Gaiman.  I can only aspire.

    Anyway. Some inspirational words. And some beautiful music for a Sunday.

    Ravel’s Bolero

  • art,  spinning

    SOAR 2011

    I’ve been at SOAR the last week, which is Spin Off magazine’s big conference each year. It’s been an incredible experience and I haven’t quite finished processing everything that’s happened. Tonight is the last night, so there’s still a big spin-in, but my classes are all over and my shopping done and we’re starting to pack, so it’s beginning to feel like goodbye.

    I took a three day workshop with Maggie Casey that focused on the basics of spinning. I’ve been hand carding and combing wool and learning tons about fiber prep. I’ve finally figured out the difference between spinning woolen and worsted and got a lot of practice with the various spinning methods. I learned to make an Andean bracelet and chain ply. She’s an excellent teacher and it was a real honor to learn from her.

    I also took a class with Michelle Boyd on how to even out spinning (super helpful) and one with Robin Russo on camelied fibers, where I got to try and spin lots and lots of three toed animal furs. I’m still very much a baby spinner, but I’ve advanced a whole lot in the past week. Just watching master spinners and being around lots of people who are doing really excellent things with the craft is so utterly neat. I am feeling very inspired. And tired. I may have been talked into spending my rest day spinning for a vendor here, as he offered to pay me in alpaca. Lovely, lovely alpaca.

    I may have also bought another wheel. Second hand, with lots and lots of perks and kits included, for hundreds less than it would have cost me new. It’s a fabulous deal and one I’m happy to take advantage of.

    And one I’ll be even happier to take pictures of, once it gets here. It’ll be a few weeks left.

    I haven’t given up on my Thumbelina, who I will be keeping, as the wheel is forty years old and deserves some respect. But the Rose will give me a lot more flexibility and is an easier wheel to work on, so I’m excited about the possibilities. And the double treadle. Oh god, the double treadle.

    This is the first vacation I’ve ever taken where I get to focus on art for an entire week. I think it may be the first week of my life in which there are no distractions from my artistic side. I often feel really pressured to produce art and make a living at the same time. The latter is necessary and I know I’m blessed to have a career that is fun, lucrative and challenging. But it just doesn’t answer my need to have an artistic outlet, so it’s been awesome and inspirational. I can’t wait to put everything I’ve learned into practice.

  • amusement,  art,  culture,  family,  friends

    Visiting Time

    When I went to your town on the wide open shore,
    Oh I must confess, I was drawn, I was drawn to the ocean

    It is summer and we live by the ocean, which means that we’ve had a steady stream of visitors for the last month, which is an excellent thing indeed.  I’ve also been doing my share of visiting, having popped down to Virginia in the beginning of June to meet one very excellent baby.  I’m afraid I have fallen rather in love and have been compelled to knit and buy small things.

    This was followed with a far too short but excellent visit with a very old friend and a new friend, where we spent most of our time on the beach in both bad weather and good.  There are some friends that you can just pick up with after any amount of time away and the time spent together is so restful.  Too short, but incredibly wonderful.

    Last weekend, my aunt came for a visit, where we went to see lots and lots of art in jewelry format.  The jewels were so scintillating that after two rooms, I actually had eyestrain.  I found the exhibit really inspiring from a knitting design perspective; I have some ideas in my head that will be hitting paper soon.  Then we took a day to wander up to Boston, taking the Port Jefferson ferry over to Connecticut, then stopping for lunch in Mystic.  I got to tourist Boston for the first time – despite morning thunderboomers and storms, we made it to Fenway Park (and I sat on the Green Monster) and walked quite a lot of the historic trail and waved at Sam Adams’ grave (why yes, that is my beer of choice) and went shopping at Quincy Market (where I proceeded to get overwhelmed by a cosmetic purchase, which you’d think I’d have gotten down pat by the age of thirty-one).  Dinner was excellent Vietnamese, which sent us off to sleep, only to awaken to a day at the Science Museum, which is pretty much the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Lightning bolts and amazing ship models?  In one place?  Awesome.

    The social life continue this weekend with some more very dear friends coming up for a visit and barbeque and FIREWORKS IN THE BACKYARD.  We’re not all that patriotic, but we sure do like setting things on fire.  Just hopefully not ourselves.

  • art,  knitting,  new york

    Hollyhock Fiber Festival

    This weekend I went to the Hallockville Fiber Festival, which is an excuse for knitters and spinners and other fiber nuts to get together and swap stories and goods. It was held at the Hallockville Museum Farm, which is an old farm with dedicated buildings to weaving and spinning. I watched a demonstration on weaving, which I’m afraid I have a terrible interest in, and a demonstration on fiber punching, which is something I don’t. But it was still pretty interesting to watch bits of fiber turn into actual sculpture.

    There’s a whole lot that can be done with the fleece of a sheep.

    There were a gazillion spinning wheels, which was terribly tempting, because I rather badly want to get into spinning. I just can’t pick up another hobby right now, but I think that I will get one this winter, once the kayaks are put away. There’s just something so peaceful about the motion. I imagine I could find it equally as compulsive as I find knitting.

    But the day was gorgeous and being out in the country, while still on the same island I live on, was really quite wonderful. Even if it did mean adding to my yarn collection, which was not even remotely necessary.

  • art,  culture,  film

    Catching the Thieves

    I don’t often sit down to watch a movie, but when I have been watching movies lately, they’ve been from the In Technicolor! era. Recent watches have been For Love of Ivy, Arsenic and Old Lace, Sunset Boulevard and Mogambo. Tonight I’m watching To Catch a Thief. I’ve been enjoying the conventions of older movies, which seem to be much closer to their theatrical origins. The zoom-ins to newspapers that further the plot and the music (which seems to be the same in every movie) that point out when the romantic leads encounter each other are endearing. The clothes where men always wore suits and women were always in absolutely gorgeous ball gowns always make me wonder if that’s how it really was or if it’s just a Hollywood convention. Part of me appreciates a more formal world, even while I’m laughing at the sudden bursts of passion that cause Clark Gable to go marching over to a leading lady and push his face forcefully against hers. Is that a kiss? If so, I hope never to have one. Sorry Clark.

    Actors, is there a name for this old style of acting? The conventions are hilarious.

    Of course, the films that I’m watching are the ones that have survived through the years and have made it to DVD. I never studied film in school, other than one art history class that was a survey of Korean film. (A class in which I learned that Attack the Gas Station! is actually a remake.) I know very little about cinematography or film history. But still, I find I’m enjoying the look back at, what is to me, a very foreign time and place. It’s similar to when I watch foreign movies, where I only understand the cultural references because I’ve studied the time and place. And yet, I’ve been picking these movies because I want to understand the references of my own culture. Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Sidney Poitier, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner — all names I’ve known for years without faces. And now I’ve got the reference.