‘Tis the Season

Okay so there’s still 3 days to go till December, but close enough.

Back when I was in high school taking typing and computer courses, we didn’t have ‘Word’, we used WordPerfect.  Which, between me and everyone, I liked that program a lot better.  But that’s not relevant to the story.  As always happens around this time of year in English classes across the nation (and the odd typing class) we had to write a holiday letter to our family.

I’ve never been a letter writer.  I apparently lack the knack for non-fiction writing, but whatever, it was a school assignment so no getting out of it.  But far be it from me to actually do the assignment as expected.  Instead I decided to write a holiday letter *my* way.

For context, I had recently gotten it in my mind to memorize the entirety of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.  (and probably not un-inspired by The Simpson’s episode) Just because it seemed like the thing to do at the time, I suppose.  So all that was fresh in my mind, and being forced to write a holiday letter (which I hate doing) and being somewhat more poetic in high school than I tend to be now, all these things came together to produce the following.  Written sometime in the neighborhood of December, 1994.

Once Upon a Christmas Raven

Once upon a midnight Christmas, while I pondered, weak and listless
Over many quaint and curious packages, wrapped and tied and new;
As I pondered, nearly peaking, suddenly I heard a squeaking
As if someone stealth’ly sneaking, sneaking down my chimney flu.
‘Tis Santa Claus,’ I muttered, ‘sneaking down my chimney flu,
With packages, wrapped and tied and new.’

Ah distinctly, I recall It was winter, long past fall
And each reindeer he did call as he flew on through the night.
Eagerly I sought to see them, milk and cookies out to greet them,
Underneath my tree he’ll leave them, presents all marked just for me –
Many rare and radiant presents that are all marked just for me,
He’ll leave them underneath my tree.

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each festive curtain
Filled me with fantastic joys that Santa Claus would soon be here.
Down into the bright room came he, with a red hat, fat and jolly,
And a little twig of holly tight tightly gripped between his… claw?
Some stupid bird with a bit of holly in between his claw?
I couldn’t believe what then I saw!

‘Twas not Santa Claus who came in, but a fat and pitch black raven!
I knew it was food he was cravin’ as he stood and stared at me.
Not a sound then did he utter, but with many feathers fluttered
Flew up to the heavenly angel perched upon the Christmas tree –
To the heav’nly angel Gabriel perched upon the Christmas tree.
Quoth the raven, ‘Feed me.’

(and I’ve the sudden desire to add to it…

…stay tuned.)

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Warm-Fuzzy Feelings

So I got this email…

Dear Andrea, Congratulations on winning an Honorable Mention in the WOW! Summer ’12 Flash Fiction Contest. Your story, Lists, is truly outstanding! So well written and creative. What a unique way to introduce a love story! We all adored it, and it also captured the heart of our honorable guest judge, literary agent Marie Lamba. Keep up the excellent writing! We look forward to reading your work in the future. Love, Angela & WOW! Women On Writing http://wow-womenonwriting.com

I submitted one of my stories, Lists, to a writing contest.  🙂  Even if I didn’t win, I still have uber-warm-fuzzy feelings!

Spinning and Weaving

Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, life took a left turn when I wasn’t paying attention.  But I come bearing crafties!  I’ve discovered and am working furiously to perfect my Navajo ply, a three-ply style that plies the thread with itself as you go (rather than needing two other threads to ply with or trying to roll the spun thread into a ball and plying the ends together.)

I can’t explain it so I’ll show you a video I found.  Thing is, watching the video, I was convinced I would need four hands to pull this off because she’s using a spinning wheel and I only have spindles and you need two hands to work the thread and then one to work the plying spindle and another to keep the source spindle from getting tangled.

Well, I figured out how to do it using two spindles and yet only two hands!  And… I am utterly failing at trying to explain how so I’ve drawn really bad diagrams to help:A: start by making a small loop or slipknot in the end of your thread to anchor it to the plying spindle.  Draw a length of thread from your source spindle and pull it through the loop.

B: hook the length of thread you pulled through the loop back over the shaft of your first spindle, holding the original loop open with your fingers (keep the yarn from plying that loop closed or you’ll be fighting it the whole way.)  This will keep all your thread under enough tension so it won’t knot on itself.  As you turn your source spindle, the set up will act like a pulley system, as you unwind the thread it will run through the loop, around the shaft and to the second spindle.

C: when you’ve drawn out as much as you want, use the hand holding  your first spindle to pinch the three portions of thread about an inch or two out from your first spindle and then use the second spindle to ply the lengths.  Wind the yarn onto your plying spindle, then carefully unhook the loop from around your first spindle shaft.  This becomes the new loop in figure A, draw a new length of thread through and start all over.

This is so simple and quick and such a beautiful result!  Wanna see?

Navajo plied wools

Navajo plied alpaca

Navajo plied silk

 

Navajo plied cotton

Oh yeah… I spun cotton!  IT WAS HARD!  The staple length is so terribly short you have to be *really* careful how you draft it or you’ll lose it.  But I have my first ever tiny little batch of cotton yarn now!  And so fluffy white and ready to play with vegetable dying 🙂  I have some beet root that I think will make an excellent first try.

So now that I’m just blowing through the spinning and plying, I have lots of fiber to use for (drum roll, please) WEAVING!  I don’t have a full loom set up, yet, but I’ve started making bookmarks on my bead loom.

These were my trial runs, so I didn’t want to use my ‘valuable’ handspun yarns yet, but I did use some for the purple accent on the top one. The bottom has beaded accent rows.

The upper was entirely hand-spun. The lower used hand-spun warp and ribbon weft.

Purchased yarn warp with hand-spun weft

Purchased cotton. This was produced on a makeshift 12″ loom to get a longer bookmark, so again I went back to store-bought to make my first practice piece.

And then I decided to do a little longer piece and made it a choker:

Woven choker necklace with beads

Celtic knot button closure

Final result

I’ll be making bracelets for my sister and brother-in-law as well.  Oh, there’s another story.  Okay, so my sister took me out to lunch/dinner the other day to this place she raves about but I’d never had the opportunity to try, Boundary Bay up in Bellingham.  It was quite good!

My sister had steamers (clams) and I got a to-go box and took home her shells.  They scrubbed up beautifully and then I used my uncle’s drill to put a couple of holes in them.  Voila!  I now have pretty clam-shell bead, pendant, button, whatever!  So I picked out what I felt was the prettiest shell and the two halves will go on their bracelets as a matching pair.

So this is what I’ve been up to, lately.  I’m laughably behind on NaNoWriMo.  Ah well, there’s always the whole rest of the year. 😉

Excerpt from NaNo

Unedited, unpolished, unfit for public consumption.  Enjoy! 😀

 

I pulled out my pocket watch and flipped open the case, staring at it for a few moments until it sank in that it read 8:24, and whether that was AM or PM, it still had to be wrong.  It was almost mid-day.  I held it to my ear but there was only silence.

It hardly seemed like it should matter if my watch stopped working.  There were no meetings to attend or schedules to keep, but it was a thin thread of normalcy I could cling to.  Sure, we were running for our lives from an alien invasion, living in culverts and under bridges, barely sleeping or eating and probably little hope of surviving through the winter, but dammit, I knew what time it was, didn’t I!

The rhythm had helped me sleep for weeks, the comforting tick-tick-tick that let me pretend so long as my eyes were closed that this was just a weekend camping trip instead.  The device now lay dead, hands unmoving, time had stopped.  I cried.  I actually cried.  The last connection to the time before all this had started had been ripped from me, and it made me angry.  Angry that I was so weak, angry that such a stupid thing as this had me crying, and angry at all the tears that hadn’t fallen over people we had lost.

When Ashton put his arms around me, that’s when I really broke down into deep, gut wrenching sobs.  Then I wasn’t angry anymore, I was just crying all the tears I hadn’t cried for the last two months and now that they had started there was no stopping them.

I don’t know how long I cried, but eventually the tears finally stopped and the ache had retreated back to a dull numbness in my chest.  The others had drawn away, giving us some privacy.  I sat up, caught in that awkward moment between when the tears stop and when you try to extract yourself from the person who has just been holding you while you cried.  He seemed to understand, letting me go and giving me a gentle smile.

Why I really like NaNoWriMo…. and why I really hate it.

A few weeks ago I was reading someone’s entry about writer’s block being not the inability to write but hating everything written. (Was that you, Dean?)

I get both, really.  Sometimes I just can’t think of *anything* to write, and usually that’s when I’m mentally/emotionally exhausted by something or other.

Then there are phases where I get the “everything I’m writing is utter crap, drivel, tripe, cliched, flat, boring, lame…” you get the idea.   That’s what I’ve got right now.

What I really love about NaNoWriMo is it gives me permission to hate everything I’m writing, and still keep going.  The most important thing anyone can do in any kind of effort is to just keep going.  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming… and eventually whatever it is that is ‘wrong’ will sort itself out and you’ll get back to a place where you’re in the groove, the muse is happy, the words are flowing.

Trying to write every day can be very hard when you hate what you’re writing.  Forcing yourself to keep pushing through this kind of block is very exhausting because you’re not getting the same kind of payoff that you normally get from the hard work.

NaNo gives you permission to write utter crap, to hate it all, to detest ever word that falls from your fingers… and just keep going.  Something I really hate doing.

This is why I really hate NaNoWriMo, because I want to ‘win’, I mean most people do have some urge to hit the finish line, especially when the only person you’re really competing against is yourself.  But I never do.  I never get to 50,000 words.  I always get hung-up somewhere, either I can’t seem to get over the fact I hate what I’ve written so I keep trying to go back and edit and revise and change things instead of just keeping on, or because I have less and less time as work picks up because we’re getting closer to the end of the year and there’s a big push to get so much done, or because I just can’t seem to get the full 1,667 words out, and as each day goes by I fall a bit further behind that 50,000 word goal…

So it’s a little hard on the psyche to watch yourself get further behind, and it’s a little harder on the psyche to bash out any old jumble of words that you hate, and it’s even harder to know that because it’s so bad you’re never going to show anyone so what’s the point anyway!?

Yeah… I definitely have a love-hate relationship with NaNo.  But it isn’t really NaNo that I hate… it’s editing.  It’s revising.  I honestly have no idea how to do it, not really.

No one writes a perfect first draft.  But I’ve never figured out how to move beyond one!  I mean yes, I do revise *a little*… change a word, maybe rearrange a paragraph, but I’ve never really grasped the idea of how to really go through and revise a story or a novel.  It’s one of those utterly foreign and really a little terrifying concepts that just sort of hangs out there, threateningly on the horizon of writing.

So I love NaNo for giving me leave to write with wild abandon, and I hate NaNo for constantly reminding me what I *lack* as a writer.

And I thought up an idea.  And I’m already 1,000 words behind.

/sigh/

But I’ll do it again anyway.  I might not post it, though.  That remains to be seen.

 

What about you guys?  What’s the hardest part of what you love doing?  What’s the one thing you struggle with in your own endeavors?  What’s something you feel you just never got the hang of?