In which I meet the Yarn Harlot

I have picture proof, although anyone conducting an investigation would be within their rights to question the veracity of the photo:

She's the one at the front who's head is slightly higher than everyone else's.

She’s the one at the front who’s head is slightly higher than everyone else’s.

I get an interesting mixture of star-struck and desire to play it cool when I meet celebrities. In this case, it resulted in not asking to get a picture with her in the book signing line (even though she had been very nicely posing with people all evening) and not remembering to tell her anything I had wanted to say about her books. I thought about telling her that I first discovered them for myself this summer right after a death in the family and that she provided some much needed laughs at the time. If that seemed to personal, I figured I’d at least tell her that I enjoyed and appreciated her parenting commentary as much as her knitting commentary. Instead, I muttered something vague and brief about enjoying her books and hoping she had a safe trip home, and that was it.

Despite my disappointment in not making any kind of real conversation, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is just as entertaining in person as she is in her books, plus almost the whole audience was sitting there knitting while she talked, which was completely awesome. I’m so excited that I got to see her, and grateful that my husband took the kids for the evening, even if it came at the price of a few “there’s a world-famous knitter?” jokes.

Shadows by Robin McKinley

I’ve been finished with Shadows for over a week, and I’m still trying to think about how to discuss it intelligently. Mostly, I just want to gush, so I guess I will do that first, and then try to make one or two intelligent comments to finish up.

Alright, gushing first: I have been a Robin McKinley fan since my mom handed me Beauty in 5th or 6th grade, and Beauty has remained my favorite of her books (with Spindle’s End a close second) ever since. I still have my original copy of Beauty and I probably reread it every few years.

I may have a new favorite Robin McKinley book. 

I’m a little surprised by this, because I can’t quite pinpoint why I like Shadows so much, but it was just a completely satisfying read for me. I don’t want to reread it again right now, but I feel like I will want to reread it again in the next year…and then who knows how many other times. I like that it has a more contemporary feel (another of her “alt-modern” books), but it’s a different contemporary world than either Dragonhaven or Sunshine. I like the different languages that play a part (Japanese and some invented languages) and that it deals with the issues of borders and safety and how people choose to deal with the dangerous stuff that the world throws at us, but it doesn’t preach about any of these topics. I like that the “evil stepfather” is presented as a way to introduce the story, but that Maggie (the main character) is willing to reconsider once she realizes that her stepfather is not evil, just magical. I also like the “critters” everywhere…I am not really a critter person (one cat is just right for me, thank you), but the critters are both endearing and normal, which helps draw you into Maggie’s world.

I also like that, while the ending of the book is a little ambiguous (you don’t know if and how all the big issues are going to be resolved), you know who is who in Maggie’s group of friends and family…I can take a lot of plot ambiguity if all the relationships I’m interested are nicely settled!

Ok, I still don’t have anything especially critical or not-gushing to say. Everyone can have some blind spots with their favorite authors, right? Maybe after I reread this 2 or 3 times, I’ll be able to look at it a little more critically, but in the meantime, I strongly recommend it to anyone who likes: fantasy, magic, dogs, Japanese, origami, hot chocolate, magical creatures, teenage protagonists, or romance. Oh, and anyone who hates math. You won’t be disappointed.

New Book Excitement

Despite being a librarian and loving books, I’m not great at keeping up-to-date on new publications. Between that and a very tiring week, I was very excited, therefore, when this arrived on my doorstep on Thursday:

New book!

New book!

I had actually pre-ordered this with a birthday Amazon gift card back in March and, for once, an Amazon pre-order worked in my favor and the book arrived ON publication day. Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors, and I’m already enjoying this one. Just one unexpectedly delightful detail: the heroine is training her dog to herd alpacas (yes, McKinley knits, and started about the time I started it again, which is one of the reasons I so enjoy her blog: http://robinmckinleysblog.com).

I’m not very far in:

Pages 32-33

Pages 32-33

Needless to say, my French reading project is on hold until I get the chance to finish this!

Knitting Class and the Yarn Harlot

One thing I didn’t put on my Durham list last week was “take a knitting class at the Hillsborough Yarn Shop.” That’s because I COMPLETED this item over the summer. I’ve been wanting to do this since I discovered the shop in early 2011, and I’m so happy I got it in. It was everything I’d hoped it would be: an outing by myself, a chance to learn a little more about knitting, and an excuse to do some shopping at the store. As a bonus, the project is something I’ve been wanting to make for myself but didn’t know how (a shawl–at church, it always seems to be cold, whether because the AC is up too high or because the heat isn’t on!) and is something I can make with alpaca yarn that my husband brought home from a trip to Peru this spring. Here’s the work in progress:

Beginning of shawl.

Beginning of shawl.

It obviously has a long way to go, but I feel like I learned enough to confidently continue the pattern and do the blocking and finishing when it’s done. (And if now, well, then I’ll have to make another trip over to the shop…)

In a somewhat related category, I finally discovered the Yarn Harlot this summer. That would be Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a knitter and writer from Toronto who writes about knitting, mostly humor and stories rather than patterns (although she has those, too, I understand). I read her first book during some unexpected traveling in July, and I was laughing out loud and making my mom listen while I read her sections. In my defense, my mom laughed, too! Although I realize (and so does Ms. Pearl-McPhee, for that matter), that knitting humor is a very specific genre, I wholeheartedly recommend her books to anyone who does any kind of crafting, or if there’s a crafter in your life who you are trying to figure out. If you suspect someone is hiding yarn around your house, Yarn Harlot will tell you where to look!

Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a KnitterYarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here’s the original. I didn’t think you needed my whole review since I basically told you everything already.

And here’s some text to make the pictures

line up correctly.

All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a SpinAll Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brief Thoughts on Writing and Vocation

I write. Some.  I write in a diary, I write this blog, I occasionally work on fiction writing. I have had 2 library science articles published. I have the idea of some day writing a (preferably good) kid’s book that gets published.

One author I admire, Shannon Hale, recently wrote an interesting piece on her blog about being a writer and a stay-at-home mom. Here it is.

It definitely gave me a lot to think about. I fully believe that this is how it works for Ms. Hale (and it obviously works, because she’s written some awesome books. And there are some things I can definitely learn from it: wasting time on the computer (and off) doing non-essential, non-writing tasks would be the first. The idea of taking plenty of time to write before worrying much about publishing is another. And I think I can accept that I’m not “hardcore” enough about writing to call it a passion or to see it as my life’s work.

In some ways, the conversation should stop there. But I have a few reasons of my own why I’m not going to give up just yet.

  1. I’ve heard/read other writers emphasize that everyone has a different writing process. So what works for Ms. Hale might not work for everyone, even other successful authors.
  2. I can’t find citations for any of this right now. But I do know that some people don’t successfully publish a book until middle age or later–that the age bell curve for “becoming an author” skews much later than other life accomplishments. There’s not necessarily a need to rush–all my children are at home and require attention at all waking hours right now. That won’t always be the case.
  3. While I would like to write a book worthy of publication, there are many other things that I’m ok with putting ahead of this–again, at least for right now. I see my primary professional work being as a librarian–and if I become a good librarian and am never a published fiction author, that will be ok. I am also not willing to give up such things as hanging out with friends (which happens infrequently enough anyhow), pursuing those things that may only be “hobbies,” and sometimes just doing nothing.

So I will keep on writing when I can fit it in, try to make better use of those times, and see what comes of it. Maybe nothing. But better to write in bits and pieces than not at all.