In which I use the word commingled

I woke up this morning with a magnificent cold, but I am not bummed out, for it is two days until I go meet the knitters in New Jersey, and three sleeps until I walk among the forces of Rhinebeck. Wool heals. I feel this.

That’s why, in the interest of healing my cold I am going to spend all day knitting and stash managing. If I didn’t have a cold I would totally spend today cleaning and doing laundry. Totally. I’ll need to start new socks since these are finished.


Monkey socks, Hazel Knits, Sailors Delight (currently sold out, but she’s got a mailing list going on and is dyeing as fast as she can.) A portion of each sale of this colourway goes to Doctors Without Borders, and it’s beautiful besides.


Modifications: I changed the top of the Monkey to a picot edge.

I read all the comments from yesterday, and the advice is overwhelmingly in accord. Wash the yarn first. Since I always do as I am told (stop that laughing) I’m washing it. A couple of people asked how I would wash the yarn if it was on the cone, so I thought I might explain before somebody tries that and blames me for the ensuing disaster. You can’t wash yarn on the cone. (I feel sure that this is definite.) I went and got my niddy-noddy, and I put the cone on the floor and started reeling it off.


When I’m making my own skeins I always try to keep in mind that I don’t want to make one bigger than I can eventually wind on my ball winder.


I tied it very carefully in 4 places. (There are instructions here on how to tie a skein.) I will leave to your imagination the absolutely gory consequences of attempting to wash a bunch of yarn if you haven’t prevented tangles properly. I shudder to think of the sodden heap of hopelessly commingled yarn that would result, and you can trust me, it does result. Thus secured, I removed it from the niddy-noddy and pitched it into a sink full of very hot soapy water.


(I used dish soap. I don’t think SOAK or Eucalan would do it.) I let it sit for a few minutes to become thoroughly wet, then swished and squeezed it for a little. (I am not worried about this yarn felting, but it might be a concern of mine with a different sort of yarn, so if you try this, don’t forget to use your brain.) I pulled it out and squeezed as much water out as I could, repeated with rinse water, then rolled it up in a towel and stood on it to get more water out, then hung it outside to dry. I’d guess that the total time investment (especially if you do not take pictures

) is about 10 minutes per skein.


(It is tied to that chair pretty darn firmly, lest yee think I forget the squirrel.) I happened to toss a washed and dried and an unwashed skein on the ground while I was taking pictures of the one on the chair and looked down.


I was struck (again) by the incredible difference between the washed (left) and the unwashed (right.) You guys were right to insist on the washing. The clean wool looks so much more appealing, it’s going to be way more pleasant to spend time with, which is good, since I’ve decided to go down a needle size. I was on the knitalong page for the Sunrise Circle Jacket, and saw a note from Kate Gilbert where she said that you want this fabric firm when knit, which, since I love this yarn so much I want to marry it, totally means I won’t be using another yarn and also won’t be getting gauge, which means I’m going to refigure the thing, which means…..

Well. That this yarn and I are likely going to be spending a lot of quality time together.

Good things come to those who wait

My new reward yarn is Valley Yarns English Tweed. I’d been seriously loving this limited quantity WEBS yarn since I was there and Steve and Kathy showed me samples of it, and when it showed up on their website and I was still obsessed with it, I decided that it would be my reward for finishing the book. I marked the page and kept a link to it in my bookmarks, and when the going got rough, and I wanted to knit instead of work, I would click over and give it a little virtual pat.

This colour is spmBrown, and I watched the quantities available change every day or two. 80lbs, 70lbs, 60lbs….58,46,42,39…and then, suddenly, one day five days before the book was done, there was 3. Three pounds of this yarn left in the world? Three pounds of my reward yarn? I was on the phone in minutes, and, having discovered that Kathy and Steve weren’t in the store, impressed upon the lovely man who answered the phone that I needed him to move like lightning. That I needed him to go into the warehouse, find that yarn – whatever of it was left and get it out of there. Quickly, before it was purchased by anyone else. (I may have suggested that he run.) He did go really fast, and when he got there there wasn’t even three pounds left there was about 2. (I would love to know which one of you scooped me while I was on the phone.) Which is totally ok, that’s enough to make what I want to make, but dudes… about a close call. I almost ordered a couple pounds of all of the other colours too, just to take the edge off, but then I got a hold of myself and realized I was just responding to a scarcity market. The yarn arrived yesterday and I started to play around with it.


This is yarn that comes on a cone, and coned yarn is not like yarn that comes on skeins or in balls. Coned yarn is at the very least, quite compressed, and usually (I am only saying usually because I hate saying “always”, somebody “usually” points out an exception to the rule) still contains the oil from spinning. Commercial mills move fibre a lot faster than we spinners do, and a little very light oil is sprayed on the fibre to reduce static and help things move along. The yarn is spun, then plied, then wound onto cones. Yarn that you and I would usually get then has another step, it’s skeined off and washed. Coned yarn has a lot of advantages (like being one long length…no knots, and being generally less expensive) but one of the things you need to know is that what you see is not going to be what you get. The oil needs washing out, and when you do that, the yarn fluffs up. It’s a pretty big change. The worlds “big” and “change” when applied to yarn should give you a chill and feel very significant to you, since we are speaking of something that can mess up gauge. Therefore, I’ve washed some to sort of get a feel for what this yarn is really like.


On the left, the unwashed yarn right off the cone, on the right, same stuff after a bath. I used nice hot water and dish soap, rinsed carefully (being careful not to agitate….I don’t want to felt it.) Can you see the big difference? This yarn in it’s unwashed state is sort of firm and rough, but after a quick bath it’s very soft and pretty.


I think that there is even a very slight difference in the colour.

I’m planning to knit a sweater out of this (this one) and unfortunately, this is one of those times when gauge matters. Since this yarn experienced big change when I washed it (and having been burned by this game before) I decided to knit a swatch, measure my gauge, wash the swatch and remeasure gauge. (Close your mouth, you’ll catch flies. I know it’s surprising, but I’m anti swatch, not stupid. I want to wear this sweater, and I want it to fit.)

Here’s the swatch before.


After it’s bath:


Big difference. Huge, actually. Want to see them side by side?


Yeah, me too, but I can’t figure out how to do it. I just seriously lost a debate with software. Whoa. Bon is seriously clever and just landed this bad boy in my inbox. In any case, the point is that washing it really changes it. The swatch was knit on 4.5mm needles and in the top picture, has a gauge of 19.5 stitches to 10 cm and looks open and gappy like it was knit on needles too big for it. After it’s bath, it has expanded, gotten bigger and now has a gauge of 18 stitches to 10cm (which is exactly what I wanted) and all those holes are filled in and the whole thing really fluffed up. Can you imagine the consequences of basing your gauge decisions on that swatch without a wash? Ayup. Big problem.

Now that I’ve determined that this yarn on these needles gives me the gauge I want – eventually, if not right away, I can go ahead and knit the sweater, knowing that when I give the thing a good bath after knitting, I’ll suddenly and miraculously have the thing I want.

I know some knitters wash up the yarn before knitting it, but the disadvantage would be that I would have to wait for yarn to dry before starting…and I don’t know if I’m really capable of delaying gratification like that.

Does anyone know of an advantage either way?


I’m back from SOAR, and I had a spectacular time. Here are some things that I learned.

1. I took two classes a day, talked fibre and spinning morning noon and night and avoided sleep because I might have missed something, or someone. The mentors are fantastic, the attendees incredible and the whole thing a pivotal experience. (I expressed that I was tired, and Phreadde told me to sleep after SOAR. She’s a genius, but very dangerous.) Putting that much in your brain that fast while maintaining an active social calendar while there is so exhausting that I am surprised that this event does not have a mortality rate. (I actually suggested that perhaps it did and the other spinners were just stripping the bodies of fibre and rolling them into the lake.)


2. Denny was one of the SOAR scholarship recipients this year, and she was a freakin’ rock star. Rachel H, Juno, Julia and I arrived on Thursday, with Rachel H. and I worried about our little Denny and how she was faring on her first time away alone. She’d gone for the whole week and we were concerned that she might be lonely. We arrived and anxiously sought her out only to discover that she owned Soar. Owned it. Witness her brainchild “Stupid Yarn Tricks”.

This is Abby.


This is Denny.


Abby is spinning (or maybe plying…) over a balcony above Denny. (Fine yarn is on the spindle. Abby needs to keep it spinning all the way down, or the twist will come out and disaster will ensue.) Denny is catching it in her arms….


Then in her teeth. (I swear this must be seen to be believed.


I took this picture lying on the ground at Denny’s feet.) Stupid yarn trick number two. Denny had a sweater that needed to be unravelled (bad gauge) and skeined for washing. She positioned Abby and I back to back about 6 metres apart (20 feet)


and had us extend our arms.


Then she took her knitting off the needles, and started running. She did one lap,

then passed it off to a bystander,


they did a lap, and passed it off to someone else,


and someone else.


In this manner, the sweater was unravelled in minutes. The occasional runner hurried too fast and missed the hands of Abby or I, but I am sure that Abby would agree that repeated near strangulation was a small price to pay for how hysterically funny it was. When the largest skein was completed and the sweater unravelled, Abby and I experienced a moment of simpatico genius and did “eggbeaters” to twist and coil the skein.


Forgive the blurriness. The photographer was laughing too hard for accurate camera operation.

(It was funny. Nauseating, since you have no idea how many times you need to twist a skein that size to get it to fold back on itself…but funny.)

3. This is Dan.


It is very important to correctly identify Fiberguy Dan at SOAR. Dan is married to Phreadde, and Dan is responsible for the honoured practice of “swilling” which is to say “drinking really bad wine until the very wee hours of the morning”.


It is dangerous, and all contact with Dan should be accomplished with your wits about you, lest you fall victim.

(Rachel and I escaped largely unscathed. The same cannot be said of our room-mates.) Memorize now what he looks like so that he can’t ever sneak up on you at one of these things. (Swill tip from Dan: If you think the swill isn’t good….it’s not cold enough.)

4. I know very, very little about spinning. I improved my long draw and learned double drafting from Maggie Casey (she is a goddess walking the earth as a woman), Margaret Stove (!!!) showed me the true path to understanding lace, Judith MacKenzie-McCuin taught me….well, a hundred things, but I think she was aiming for the totally new-to-me concept of wet finishing, and a lovely lady named Joan Sheridan Hoover taught me a very great deal about my wheel. Those were just the classes. There is so much about this to learn.

I swear I might have learned something just from standing near Sara Lamb.

The depth and breadth of what people know that I do not is incredible. I learned more at SOAR in a two minute conversation over dinner than I did in the whole last year I have been spinning in my living room.

5. When I realized I knew nothing, I was not sad. I was thrilled, excited and stunned. This learning curve is going to be long and exciting. I just have to stay away from the swilling if I want to survive.

PS. My reward yarn came this morning.

Transformation, Reddo

Blocking is a wondrous example of knitting magic. All knitting has magic, to be sure, since all of knitting is transformation, turning one thing into another, but the magic of knitting is slow magic, and you need a little commitment to see it clearly. Now, blocking lace is obvious and fast. You can transform something in just a few hours. I started with the Mystery stole looking finished, but ratty.


This is the case with much of lace knitting and can be discouraging to the beginner who thinks their lace is sucking…which it is, but that’s normal. It all comes out in the wash.


I started blocking by gently immersing my lace in a warm bath with Soak. I’m a big fan of this wash, and though I usually use the Aquae scent, but I got some of the Sweet Sheep’s signature scent at the Knitters fair, and I really like it. (Be careful with that link to the Sweet Sheep. It’s a dangerous one.) I left it in there for about 15 minutes, long enough that it was good and wet, all through. I lifted it out (supporting it all round) and put it on a towel, pressing gently to get lots of water out. Then I laid a clean white towel out on the bed and got my new blocking wires and pins.

My new blocking wires (the Dressing wire kit developed by Myrna Stahman and sold by Handworks) are so much better than my old blocking wires that I feel sort of stupid now for how deeply I have loved the old blocking wires. It’s like I’ve always thought that instant pudding was good and someone just gave me crème brûlée. My old wires were serviceable, and I respect them for that, they certainly did get the job done, but these ones just do it more …. elegantly. These wires come in a kit with three gauges, heavy, medium and fine, and two lengths, which I thought was totally excessive, but it turns out that I really love it. I used the heavy wires for the sides.



I used the medium gauge shorter wires to shape the point at one end..


I used the fine gauge wires to shape all the parts with curves.


See how I have the points pinned out? If I had been thinking I would have used the flexible fine gauge wires like this:


But alas, my own intelligence eluded me. Pinned out and pretty, I waited for it to dry. (This doesn’t take long with a laceweight, but still, you don’t want to unpin anything even slightly damp, so I waited more.)

Unpinned, it is gloriously, wondrously, finished.



Mystery Stole 3 – “Swan Lake” by Melanie Gibbons.

Lane Borgosesia Cashwool (I used about half a skein), cheap glass seed beads, silver lined.

3mm needles.


Modifications: Only one, I used more beads than Melanie suggested. I love the beads. Can’t get enough. I want to put beads on everything now.


They give the whole thing a sort of weight that makes it drape like a dream.


Blocking. It’s magic.

Random Wednesday Stuff:

1. I am going to be at Rhinebeck on the Saturday (thanks for asking) but not in an official sort of way, just a shopping and petting sheep sort of way.

2. I did work on the gansey wool yesterday. I got all the clean and dry fleece through the drum carder, which gave me six big, fluffy batts:


and I spun all of that, and it made this much.


Clearly, since I am making three ply, there is much work left to be done.

3. Buttonholes better, no picture.

4. Reward yarn still not arrived, though Kathy from Webs confirmed yesterday that it left her on the 25th. This means that it is somewhere sitting at the border, no doubt. (Blast the border. I don’t think they give a crap about wool.) I leave for SOAR in Michigan in the morning, and I seriously, seriously wanted it to come by then – it’s tons of knitting time in the car. (The irony of course, will be that I will likely pass my yarn at the border.) Keep your fingers crossed that it will arrive today.

Finishing and finishing

I just wrote this big huge post about how it was that the Kauni is driving me insane because I am knitting the whole thing twice, in increments and whammo….my blogging software quit and took the entry with it and now…I am re-writing the post about re-knitting. (Damn it all. I hate pathetic fallacy.) Perhaps it is just going to be that sort of day. Fine. Fine. Fine. I have a chocolate drawer. I know how to cope.

Back to the sweater. I love this sweater and I think it’s going to be a treat when I’m done, whenever that is. I can’t seem to knit it in a straight line. All parts are taking two tries. Cast on, don’t get gauge, rip out and cast on again. Knit for a while, discover that you cast on the wrong number because you tried to get sassy with the sizing, cast on again. Knit for a while, miss a pattern row, rip back and re-knit. Decide a sleeve is too tight, rip back and re knit. It’s batty, and it’s simply not improving. Remember the last time I showed you a picture of the Kauni and proudly proclaimed how my strategy to get the sleeves the same colours had worked?


Yeah. Look closely. Duh. (This is what happens when one is cocky.) Ripped a cuff, added a repeat, re-knit the ribbing.


Next up, neckband. Picked up the stitches, knit the neckband, realized I hadn’t picked up the right number and who cares anyway because what was I thinking when I picked up that stitch dipping all the way down into the pattern?


Ripped it back, re-knit. Much better.


Cut the front steeks (luckily, there’s only one way to get that done) and picked up the stitches for the button bands. Knit the button bands, realized that I hadn’t picked up enough stitches and the thing was pulling in. Ripped back the button bands, re-knit them like the knitter of experience that I am.


Turned my attention to the other button band (on which I picked up the right number, since the pain from the first button band was painfully fresh)


and proceeded to knit seven of the worst looking buttonholes in the history of humanity.


What are those? Is that any sort of elegant way to put a hole in a piece of knitting? They all suck that badly, though not at all consistantly.


I have miraculously found a way to make seven different, yet equally horrific buttonholes. If I were another sort of woman than these buttonholes would be the first against the wall when the revolution came. As it is, I am going to dig up Sweaters From Camp and see if Meg Swansen can pull my arse out of the fire again. I do believe there is some discussion of how to do a buttonhole in corrugated ribbing in there somewhere. Before I do that however, I am going to spend a little quality time with my drum carder and the clean wool for Joe’s Gansey. It’s Tuesday during a finishing phase, I can scarcely ignore it.

PS. Jayme-the-wonder-publicist (who did get her socks and was photographed enjoying them at the office by a co-worker – see her holding my book? Once a publicist…..always a publicist.)


is, despite the bribe pictured above, going to phone me up and shriek (I got an email this morning in ALL CAPS) if I don’t remember to tell you that I am speaking at the Borders in Marlton, New Jersey on Friday the 19th of October (that’s the Friday before Rhinebeck) at 7:00 in the evening. (Please follow the link and RSVP if you are coming. ) Then, I’m doing the big author signing thing at Rhinebeck on the Sunday at 10: 00, when there will be me and Alison, Heather, Ann and Kay, Clara, Sharon, Kristin, Judith and Carol all be signing our books.

After that I’ll be speaking at 1:00, in Jayme’s continuing mission to have me give this speech to New Yorkers until they are so sick of it and me that they start spitting in my coffee. (Why, I ask you, can she not be obsessed with having me speak to
Mel?) Never mind. We’ll have a grand time. How can we not? It’s freakin’ Rhinebeck – and, the featured breed is the Blue Faced Leicester. I love those guys.

PPS The Mystery Stole is blocking.

PPPS. I really hope my reward yarn comes today.

Happy Thanksgiving

I think this year I seriously hit it with the sauce. We celebrated yesterday (today is for cleaning. What a downer.) and this disappeared fast.

Home- made Cranberry Sauce.


454g fresh, whole cranberries. (That’s maybe….3 or 4 cups? I don’t think it’s a precision thing. Two small packages or one big one.)

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tsp orange rind.

Bring to a boil and cook (somewhat attentively) until the berries are mushy and have gone to bits. (About 10 minutes) The whole thing turns a bit pink and foamy at this point, but have faith. Turned out and cooled, it looks like this.



(PS. The most Canadian song? It was Hockey Night in Canada, and my winner (chosen at random from among the correct answers) was Anne-Marie in Seattle. That qualified for double points, so I chose another at random and came up with Claire. I’ll be mailing them both off some sock yarn. )

More finishing

Amanda’s high school commencement was last night. She’s already gone onto college (where she is doing very well and is quite happy, thanks for asking) and I had a hard time convincing her to go to the formal ceremony at all. She had stuff to do and wasn’t tremendously into the whole public thing. I insisted. I told her that after all these years of homework and alarm clocks, projects and coming up with bristol board or muffins on short order, that frankly, I didn’t give a crap if she wanted to go or was fulfilled by the experience. I wanted the experience, and I think (having done a pretty good job of the homework/ clock/ projects/ bristol board/ muffin thing) that I deserved it. After all of that, a mother wants to see her kid stand up there, get the diploma, smile and have their picture taken.

I told her that I consider it the least that I am owed for my contribution.


She went. (There’s a good girl.) She got her diploma. She earned a music award, and I got my moment.

These milestones are significant, I told Joe last night. Standing up there means something really important. Not just that she has the minimum required education…not just that she accomplished something that was difficult, but because that night changes what is possible in her life. Amanda can (and likely will – she’s young) screw up a fantastical number of things, but I feel like as the girls get older they hit these milestones that make you heave great sighs of relief. Your daughter turns 16? Awesome. No matter what, she can never be a 15 year old mother. 17? Wicked. She can never be a 16 year old addict. 18? The police can never bring her home charged under the young offenders act…..

After last night, we hit a big one.


Amanda can never be a high school dropout. Score.

For the record, though I didn’t get much done, (I’m just at the beginning of clue 7) I did only work on the Mystery Stole last night. Finally, some time ago I tried to explain to my American friends what the most iconic Canadian song was. I tried to tell them, that we all know this song, and they mocked me, and worse, I don’t think they believed me. For them, I have procured proof, when I whipped out my digital camera and recorded what Amanda’s school band was playing last night.

There you go. The song we can all hum up here. I’ll draw a name from among those who get it right and mail some sock yarn. Double points if an American wins.

The thing is

The thing is, that when I made this bold statement, this promise to myself that I would only work on finishing things until my “reward yarn” arrived in the mail, that I sort of thought that it would arrive that day. Sticking to finishing was no biggie when I thought it was a four hour commitment. Two days later, I’m flagging a little bit, and the reward yarn is still not here. Turns out that this business of sticking to what’s already underway is harder than it looks. The stash is calling to me, and I am tempted. Clearly, I need to strengthen my commitment.

Therefore, I Stephanie, do solemnly swear that I am going to finish this Mystery stole before I start (or otherwise take up with) anything else.


There’s really no excuse not to. The Mystery Stole enterprise had seven clues, each consisting of a chart of about the same size, and I made great time on the first five before I wandered off. Since then it has languished entirely, and for no good reason. I’m halfway through the sixth chart, and that means that there is only one and a half charts left…and that’s a reasonable amount of knitting that I should be able to freakin’ stick to.


The yarn is lovely, the pattern endearing, the beads simply enchanting. All I need to do is plunk myself down with some sort of knitterly blinders on and do. It. So I will. I’m going to work on this, and only this, and nothing else until it’s done. Even (and this might be hard…) even if my reward yarn arrives before I am done.

(Stop that laughing. I can so do it.)

Theme of the week

Or maybe the theme for a little while, is “finishing”.

I ordered some reward yarn from Webs, but it has not yet arrived, and after playing with the idea of a new sweater (or ten) the other day, I have now decided that until said reward yarn arrives, I shall finish things. I finished the bohus a long time ago, but it never properly got its photoshoot. This last trip to Seattle I met up with my bohus enabler and good friend, Susanna Hansson and she played photographer for me.


(Why we both have wet hair, I do not recall.)

I knit my Bohus in February, and it was an uplifting way to spend the dreariest part of the Canadian winter. My kit was “Guld” (which those of you with even the slightest translation instincts will guess is “gold”) and it was a pleasure and then some to have the knitting equivalent of a golden sunrise on my needles every day. I loved everything about this sweater. I love how it looks,


I even love how it fits.



I did a pack of modifications to this sweater. I knit it in the round, once I got past the armholes and shaping. (Bohus are traditionally knit flat and sewn up.) I knit hems at the sleeves and waist to replace the traditional ribbing, which I sincerely feel is the least flattering idea ever had. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need is for someone to shape knitwear so that it clings tightly to my belly and arse.

Finally, I added waist shaping.


Since Bohus are knit top down and I was working in the round, it made it a very simple matter to put it on and add shaping on the fly. I love this sweater and I can’t wait to get another one on the needles. Despite the small gauge (and I won’t kid ya. The gauge is very small.) this sweater flew by.

This sweater also flew by, although considering the gauge that it’s knit at…I’d be disappointed if it hadn’t.

Finished: The Fleece Artist Garter Stitch Jacket. (I got mine here)


This fits like a dream, looks fantastic, came together quickly, is warm and pretty and done just in time for fall.

The leaves are turning here in Toronto, and I imagine myself wandering High Park in this.


It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but it’s got some subtle shaping achieved by changing needle sizes. I had my doubts, but it works. I’ve closed it with a pretty pin that Kathleen made me.


It matches perfectly. This sweater was a fun, easy knit, with one exception. The combination of mohair and mohair boucle means this knit only goes in one direction. I picked up and knit the first sleeve and felt I hadn’t picked up enough stitches and the sleeve pulled in at the top. I picked up more on the second sleeve, liked that a lot better and attempted to pull back the first sleeve for a do over.


Nope. The knitting was essentially welded together. No way would the mohair come apart from itself. I ended up cutting off the sleeve, unpicking the leftover bits and trying again. Much success on the second go-round, and I’m lucky I had enough yarn. If I use these yarns again (and I think I will, I’ve got my eye on this one. Also this one. Actually, I may be on a bit of a Fleece Artist Jag right now.) then I would be sure and call it quits on a mistake as soon as I suspected it, instead of adopting a wait and see approach. As much as I don’t mind them, this yarn doesn’t care for do-overs.

Next up on the finishing list…Mystery Stole 3. I’m mid “clue 5” and the whole shebang only goes to “clue 7”. I’m going to reclaim the living room (I misplaced it during the last few weeks of the book writing process) and then see what can be done. I think I’m suddenly fond of finishing things.

And She’s Back

The book is done.

It is on my editor’s desk and she has not yet phoned me to tell me that it is the worst example of writing humanity has every produced, which is a relief to me, but shouldn’t be. Up until recently I had always thought there was a sort of a safety net in writing. That publishers wouldn’t publish anything really terrible that a writer produced, for fear of embarrassing themselves or injuring their professional reputation. Then I read a bad book, probably not the first one I’ve read, but it was the first time that I read a bad book that it occurred to me that bad manuscripts get published all the time (well, not all the time…but more often than you would hope) and that I, as a writer, cannot attempt to avoid humiliation by counting on my publisher to reject a bad book, and instead, I really needed to write well and critically and I have been frightened to death ever since.

A person who publishes a book appears willfully in public eye with his pants down.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

A book is offering yourself up for a public mocking. The author will endure valid (and invalid) criticism about their work, and will have to take to heart that the things that other people say about what they have written. Authors struggle with hearing that criticism and wondering if they really wrote badly…or simply not to their critics taste. There are tons of people who find work that is critically acclaimed rather weary…writing well (or even brilliantly) will absolutely not spare you painful commentary. (The worst is the commentary for things you are not in charge of…like covers, paper, fonts or even titles. I prefer to get slagged for the stuff I can actually have some power over.) Knowing this criticism is absolutely inevitable, should be rather freeing…but it’s not, at least not for me.

For reasons that I can’t describe, I always think making a book everyone will love is just a matter of focus. As my deadline approaches, I work harder….even if the book is technically done. Editing. Revising. Putting things in a new order, rewriting paragraphs….or in the case of this book, Having my mother point out that I had desperately overused a word or two, and then having them be all that I could see on the page. There I was at 1am screaming “Do I only KNOW THREE WORDS! What is WRONG with me!” (It was a particularly low moment. It’s fine now.) I keep scrabbling and working all the way down to the deadline because….well. I don’t think a book ever really can be finished. You could always work on it forever….just like if you had agreed on a day to go into the public eye with your pants down you wouldn’t ever really be ready for that either.

Writing is the flip side of sex, it’s good only when it’s over.

Hunter S. Thompson

In a way, the deadline is good…because it stops the madness. There’s a finite end to how long you can sob at the table, how much coffee you can drink…how many times you can think about getting a better job. Come hell or high water, you have to stop on the deadline and hand it over…and one way or another, that day marks the release from whatever self imposed psychosis you’ve managed to come up with this time. At that point, no matter how insecure or worried you are, at that point you are done. You’re finished. Forced to be finished. It’s time for the book to go on to its next phase of production. It’s both horrifying and, I must admit, one of the most profoundly satisfying feelings of relief I’ve ever experienced. At this point I love the book and I am horribly protective of it, as though it were a small child going off for the first time without me. I also love what my life will be for a few days before I go back to work.

A vacation. No book. No avoiding the book. No thinking about the book….no explaining about the book, no staying home or awake because of the book. Don’t get me wrong, I love the book and I think it’s good and I’m also a little sad to see it leave me and what we made together…but I still sort of want to say “Goodbye my little book. Good luck with the editors, I hope they aren’t too rough with you. I will miss you horribly, and I promise I’ll see you on the other side….

Also…My darling little manuscript?


Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.