Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writing Wednesday - Finding Balance

This week has been so strange that it's hard for me to believe that it is Wednesday already. Today feels like a Monday with a whole long week ahead of me and I've had to keep reminding myself that there are only 3 more days until the weekend, not 5. Having Wednesday dedicated to writing on the blog has really helped me focus on writing during the rest of the week. I need something to blog about so I better write something.
Monday night I was able to begin rereading my Camp NaNoWriMo novel from April 2012. I haven't looked at it in over a year so I know I need to reread the whole thing before I start making any edits. I have paper beside me to write down anything I might need to remember like minor character names and events. I tried to read more of it yesterday when everyone was home but life just didn't cooperate. I'd like to finish reading it by this time next week and start thinking about revisions - characters I want to develop more or perhaps take out completely; events I want to include, exclude or expand. Sometimes the process feels like it will take forever and is very overwhelming and I want to stop. The first step, however, is just reading it and that seems easy enough. 

I also finished reading this book this week. I think a lot of the information is for non-fiction writers who need to appear as an expert in their field before publishers will even look at them. However, I think it had a lot of good advice for me as well. It talked about having a social media presence which I have been trying to work on. I've begun following some people and groups on Google+ (although I'm still not really sure how to use it properly) and have tweeted a little bit more and have started following some new people, which has gotten me a few new followers as well. It feels scary to put myself out there. I like being anonymous. I like having my opinions but I don't really feel the need to discuss them with anyone outside my family and close friends. 

The one thing this book encouraged me to do was to sit down and think about what I want from this blog. What kind of readers/followers do I want? What do I want to write about? And why do I like the blogs that I do?

I spent some time thinking about these questions and writing down some answers. It became clear who I want  my audience to be. I really want to have readers that are similar to me. They can be moms, but not necessary as I don't write about my kids too much here. They should like reading and crafting. A lot of the blogs I follow are just women crafting and being honest about their lives. It's neat to take a peak into someone else's life but just a peak. I don't really follow anyone who overshares, is very opinionated or critical of others. The world can be a cruel place and I look to blogs to lighten it up a little and to give my creative self something to think about. This is what I want for this blog as well. 

This blog started as a place to share my quilts but has evolved as I have the past few years. Although I still like making quilts, it has not been my focus the past year or so. I thought I couldn't talk about all my interests, that I needed to focus on just one thing. I changed the name of the blog from Rachel's Quilts to Stitch 2, Write 1 to try and break out of that, to show that I was more than a quilter. When I did that my blog kind of got lost. I stopped getting new followers and comments. People forgot about me but I also think I needed to take a step back. Sure I changed the name but was I ready to share more about myself? Probably not. I replaced quilts with knitting but I still wasn't very present. This year I'm attempting to change that and Writing Wednesday is the first big step. It's scary to write about my writing ambitions but I know there are many other writers just like me. Wanting to get published, trying to edit their first novel but still trying to be themselves. I don't want to stop knitting or quilting just because I'm also a writer now (and I need to start feeling comfortable calling myself a writer, too). This blog, I hope, will become a place for me to reflect and comment on how I am balancing my writing life with mothering 3 children while still finding time to do the things I love like knitting and quilting.

It's taken me all day to write this post. I took time to think about what I wanted to say and rewrite several sentences. I also wrote a new piece of creative nonfiction for the CBC Canada Writes contest that has a deadline of this Saturday. I also fed the baby numerous times, changed some diapers, read blogs and ate some chocolate.This is me trying to balance my life.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Knitting Monday

This week I've had to remember that slow and steady wins the race. Especially when knitting sleeves. I finally finished the body of the sweater for my older son but am now left with the sleeves. But before I show pictures of the sweater here's the little guy enjoying a hat I knit him last year at Christmas, months before he was born.

It's nice and warm and keeps his ears covered. I put 2 buttonholes so it could grow with him. He is using the smallest setting right now. He doesn't like getting the hat done up but is fine once it's on.

Adorable, isn't it?

My birthday boy. I finished the body in time for his birthday last week. I had him try it on and took a picture.

Started the first sleeve. I have about 8 inches left before I am finished the first sleeve. Ugh. Might do the hood before I do the second sleeve. Really looking forward to finishing this one.

However, I couldn't help but start something. I was spending way too much of my "spare" time looking at patterns and daydreaming about what I would start next. I made a Zuzu's Petals cowl for my mom for Christmas - forgot to get a picture though - and knew I wanted to make one for myself. I had a skein of yarn that I bought on clearance several years ago and have been waiting for the right pattern. When I saw the Yarn Harlot's Zuzu's Petals (if you click on the link you'll have to scroll down to her January 21st post as I couldn't get the individual post) last week I knew I needed to cast on another one, right away. I am on row 15 of 42 of the lace pattern and have been working on it after all the kids go to bed in the evenings. This should be done by next Monday.

Hard to believe that January is almost over and February and the Olympics will be here very soon. Next Monday I'll post my knitting plans for the Olympics. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Writing Wednesday - A Google Hangout

Some of you may have noticed a few little changes on the blog this week. One of them is the little g+ by my name on the sidebar. Clicking on it takes you to Google+. I don't know much about it but my husband has been encouraging me to use it for months. I'm told it's like Twitter but better. This week I filled out my profile a bit and spent some time looking around and found out that Alice Munro and Margaret Atwood would be doing a Google Hangout chat tonight. So earlier tonight I got to watch two literary greats talk about Alice's work. It was as amazing as you would expect with these two.

Doesn't it look like Atwood's talking just to me?

Alice Munro discussing her work.

Atwood fullscreen!

Love the picture of the two of them behind Alice on the bookshelf.

Of course I did a little knitting while watching.

And I have been writing this week. Social media once again alerted me to a little something. Besides hosting Canada Reads, CBC also hosts a Canada Writes contest. The current contest is for creative non-fiction - deadline is February 1st. I spent several days last week thinking about it and then wrote a rough draft on Thursday and Friday. I left it alone for the weekend and reread it the other day. It's not bad but still needs a lot of work and I'm not sure I'll submit it but it was fun to write. The next contest is for poetry and I might just focus on that one instead.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Knitting and "my office"

Holidays can sometimes throw my schedule out of whack. The kids had yesterday off school so my Monday knitting post didn't get written, although I did take pictures.

Here is the cardigan with ends woven in and arm seams complete. I had made 5 button holes but decided to sew close 4 of them and do what the pattern says and just have one button at the neck. After trying a lot of different buttons I've settled on the pink one seen above. Still needs to be sewn on. Then I can wash the sweater and mail it.

Been knitting like crazy on this sweater for my older son. This was supposed to be a Christmas present but the first time I knit it, it was too big so I frogged it and started over. His birthday is this Thursday. I would love to have the body and sleeves done by then. The Australian Open is really helping with my evening knitting (wasn't yesterday's tennis amazing! Canadian Eugenie Bouchard winning and Djokovic losing. Wow, those were both surprises.) Anyway...

I was going to wait until my table was cleared off before I took a picture to post then I had to admit it will always look a little crazy. The left side of the table is the crafty side, the right side is the writing side. The white book shelf is where the table used to be, so I no longer have my back to the rest of the living room but can see everyone. My husband may have teased me last night about watching tennis on my computer and a different program on the tv. At least I was knitting while doing it. My son's sweater is the black lump in the middle of the table.

Very full shelves. I'd really like to empty these out a bit this year. The two cubbies under the yarn stash are quilt projects. The one on the left are projects waiting to be started while the one on the right are projects waiting to be finished. You know which ones I want to play with, right?

And this is what it looks like most evenings. Stuff spread everywhere, glow of the computer and the baby sleeping near by. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Writing Wednesday - January 15th

We finished the Famous Writer's puzzle on Sunday. My husband and I tried to work on it together but the baby often had different ideas and so we took turns working on it alone. As expected, there are definitely more male than female writers, although the last row has 5 women. 

Here's a small patch of women writers. Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Emily Dickinson.

I was thrilled when I came across Dorothy Parker while piecing. I wish I could write like her. I love her sense of humour.

I finished reading this yesterday. The first hundred pages were s-l-o-w but just as I was about to put it in the library bag to return it, it got good and I devoured the rest of the book in a few days. It's an interesting story of two women, living 100 years apart and how they are connected (they aren't related). There's also a secret journal that one of them is reading (and no, it isn't written by the other woman), which given my snoopy personality is why I checked it out from the library in the first place. I would rank it slightly above stereotypical chick lit. It has series themes, not everyone has a happy ending and a bit of language. And as much as I try to write "real literature", this seems to be the category that most of my writing falls into as well.

My new writing set up. Part of my table is now designated for writing. I also moved my picture with Atwood and my husband's painting so I can see them when I look up. Atwood wrote "Keep on Truckin'" on the picture, while my husband's painting says, "Publish or Perish.".  No pressure.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Knitting Monday

For some reason, I forgot to mention this book my sister gave me for Christmas. However, it seems appropriate that I blog about it today as she has requested socks for her birthday instead of the cardigan I had planned. No problem. Here are some of the patterns from the book. 

Maybe she'd like this one?

Or one of these?

Or one of these?

Or this unique one? We'll see.

Last Wednesday I started a little cardigan for my cousin's new little girl. I had already sent along a blanket and a couple hats but none of that had been made specifically for her and I felt she deserved something special. I might make for her since knitting for little girls is fun. This is how far I was this afternoon.

My cleaning up this weekend turned into us moving several pieces of furniture. My son and I switched bookshelves giving me a little more space. Above is most of my yarn. In the left cubby are full or almost full skeins. The right is just sock yarn, although it won't all become socks.

On top of the shelf is my bin of scrap yarn. 

All my knitting books are standing up. Some had to lay on their side on the previous shelf. Last year I also started putting patterns in a binder - the big one at the end. Each pattern is in it's own sheet protector which makes it easier to keep them flat and to look at them. And yes, they are organized by type of pattern - socks, cardigan, baby, etc.

And to help keep me focused on making for the holidays earlier this year, I have a basket of dishcloth yarn sitting on my table.

And this dizzying picture shows a bunch of bags under the table. Each bag holds a knitting or crochet project waiting to be completed. I'll show the rest of my workspace once I have everything in place, hopefully by the end of this week.

Tonight I finished the cardigan for baby Ava. Need to sew up the arm sleeves, weave in ends and add some buttons. Then it will be ready to mail. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Being Honest

I know this is a bad picture - taken at night with no flash - but it's too scary to really show you what my table really looks like. Stuff thrown on there after arriving back home after our trip to Canada at Christmas along with unfinished Christmas presents. Plus other projects. This is what I would like to clean up tomorrow, although it will probably take me several days to find a work surface under all that stuff. I wanted to start today but swim lessons this morning and a game night at a friend's house interrupted my day. As did an almost 2 hour nap with the baby this afternoon. Guess I needed it. Hopefully by next weekend I'll be able to do some actual work here.

A little something I got myself in the post holiday sales. I warned the kids they'll get a note on one of these next time they misbehave. I think I'll use them more for myself.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Writing Wednesday - Plans for 2014

I've decided to make Wednesday a day to focus on writing, at least on the blog. I've been doing a lot of thinking about this blog, my future life plans and how they might work together, if at all. I admit sometimes I really don't feel like blogging and see it as more of a chore. I think those who don't have a blog, don't realize how much work it is. Or how much time it takes to take pictures of projects or materials (fabric or yarn or something else) so that it looks good enough for a blog. Not to mention the time to sit and write the actual post. I don't want to commit to doing anything that causes me to look at it with dread. If I'm going to keep blogging then I want it to be because I still want to blog and share. But what does this little rant have to do with writing?

I'm not really sure. The words above just kind of spilled out when I put my fingers on the keys.  And maybe that is what I am hoping to happen more on the blog this year. I want there to be more me and maybe fewer crafty progress posts. I'm obviously going to keep doing posts about knitting and quilting but that isn't the only thing this blog is supposed to be about, as the title Stitch 2, Write 1 suggests. If I am going to describe myself as a writer, I need to do two things. First, I need to write. I spend too much time thinking about writing and not enough time actually doing it. I hope to change that this year. Second, I need to take writing seriously as a career if I want to be taken seriously as a writer. Now these two things seem obvious but often get lost in the day-to-day struggle of finding time and energy to write.

 I'm using this space today to declare where I'd like my career as a writer go this year. These are just hopes and I realize that my role as a mom of 3 kids will always come before my writing. However, I also need something that is mine and writing is that. This year I plan to blog about writing every Wednesday. I'm not sure yet what those posts will look like but it will be interesting to see what happens. It's totally possible that the posts will be one sentence long: "Didn't write this week, everyone sick.", but it's also possible that I'll have something to share as I am now putting some pressure on myself to write about writing every week. I'm also planning on taking the first half of the year to focus on editing the novel I wrote during Camp NaNoWriMo in June 2012. It was the first in a planned series that I still think is a good idea and would like to explore. I began editing it at the end of 2012 but didn't touch it at all in 2013. I hope to edit it enough by the end of June that I'll be ready to share it to get some feedback. In the fall I'd like to finish editing it and begin sending it out to publishers/agents. That step sounds really scary as I know I'll be rejected many times but right now I believe the novel has potential and that the planned series could be good. It's just a matter of finding others who believe that too.

Near the end of last year, I was looking through old files on my computer when I came across some old poems. Some of them were complete crap. Almost laughable. And others surprised me that they were actually good. I had sent poems out to magazines when I was in University and had one published but I wasn't quite ready for the rejection letters and the poems weren't really ready for publication then. I plan to polish some of these poems, perhaps write some new ones, and send them out this year. I never thought I'd be sending out poems again, but poems take less time than writing a novel, right?

Which brings me to one of my "resolutions" for 2014. A nice orange notebook from the dollar bins at Michael's with my initial on the cover. Inside I am writing a poem a day. Are they any good? Probably not but they are getting me writing everyday. Even if the poem is only a couple lines long, at least I wrote something. I'm also doing it in a notebook with a pen and not on the computer because I miss writing in a notebook. When I was younger, that's where I wrote all my poems - during class of course. It will also help with my penmanship which has really gone downhill the past few years. So far I've written one every day this year.

This isn't a resolution, but something fun I received for Christmas this year. We have plans to start it this Friday. My husband has suggested taking over the dining room table every weekend with a puzzle. Is it any wonder why I love this man?

Got to love it. Salinger, Plath and Atwood! Plus many more. My daughter was excited that J.K.Rowling was included.

This week I started reading this book and it's probably the main reason behind this very wordy post. I could write all day, everyday, but if I don't have an audience or an online presence in any way, it's unlikely that I'd get an agent or a publisher to even look my way. The world of publishing has changed and authors are now asked to be more than just a writer, they need to market themselves. Authors need to get their names out there and show publishers that they are worth spending money on because they already have an audience. I  don't have much experience with this and there will be small changes to the blog as I learn how to really use it to benefit me. I have no plans to add ads or anything like that, but perhaps it will start looking more professional. And having an online presence elsewhere is also recommended. I'm still not on Facebook and I don't plan on joining any time soon, however, I will admit that I'm on twitter. I don't tweet that much. I joined in 2011 so I could tweet about NaNoWriMo the first time I did it. I wasn't quite ready to share with family and friends on the blog about my writing, and twitter allowed me a place to brag about word counts and complain about days with no inspiration. I know I'll need to embrace twitter if I really want to use it as a way for people to know me as a writer.

I guess that brings this post to a close. I've written enough, or at least that's what my tired brain says. Time for bed. Although I have a poem to write first.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Getting ready for 2014 - Knitting

Here's the first of hopefully 3 blog posts this week about the end of 2013 and what I hope for this blog in 2014. I plan on Monday being knitting posts. I'll be updating projects, showing any new yarn I may have bought and if I'm lucky, showing off some finished projects. Obviously today is not Monday but the kids had yesterday and today off school so we 're still in vacation mode over here. 

My big gift this year was a set of interchangeable needles. I had sent the link to my husband during the black Friday/ cyber Monday deals. He complained about the price but then ordered them to arrive at his work. Sneaky guy.

They're bamboo and they're lovely. I need to start a new project just to use them. Soon.

I was able to finish the sweater for the little guy before the end of the year. December 30th, actually, during our 9 hour drive home. My husband says he looks Inuit in it so we nicknamed it his Nanook sweater - in honor of Frank Zappa. Above he's playing with a stuffed seal.

Tried to get another picture of him but his siblings are too distracting for him to look at me. You can also see my awesome new slippers in this picture too. 

My sister gifted me this bag which is perfect for holding little projects like socks (a hint maybe?) or a hat or cowl. 

My mom spoils me with beautiful yarn. This year I said no fabric just yarn as that seems to be where my interest lies, right now. (Although I do have plans to finish up some quilt WIP's and even start some new ones). This is a special colourway made for my hometown lys called, Nipissing Sunset after the lake the town sits beside. I'm thinking a cowl or scarf, even though it's sock weight yarn. This yarn is too beautiful for socks that will be buried in shoes and beneath pants.

The second skein she bought is called, Shadfly Season. Shadflies are called something else down here but I can't remember. I think this yarn might become socks. It's lovely but I found the perfect pattern for it. One of the workers from the store where the yarn was bought just released a free pattern on ravelry called Nosbonsing. This is another lake in the area where my parents have a trailer and I've been to countless times. I think a pair of Nosbonsing socks will have to me made for me, my mom and maybe my sister. 

My SIL gifted me a bunch of neat stuff, including some stitch markers that were put away before I took this picture. On the left you can see all the safety eyes she bought me. I'm beyond thrilled. I can't find them locally, only online. Now I need to decide what I'm going to make.

I received the Knitting 2014 calendar. I really enjoyed last year's, so I asked for the same one this year.

Here's a pattern I am working on from last year's calendar which seems appropriate with the recent weather. It's called "Snowstorm Cowl" and I'm almost halfway done.

My mom also gifted us these neat napkins. They might be too cool to use.

And since we've been home I've picked up some yarn to make more dishcloths. I made 3 for my SIL and she says I can make them some more. The KnitPicks blog is posting a new washcloth pattern every week which should help keep me motivated.

My knitting plans for 2014 are pretty tame, I hope. I need to finish a few projects:
1) A cardigan for my mom which has one sleeve complete
2) Blanket for the little guy which is over halfway done
3) Cardigan for my daughter that was supposed to be a Christmas present (oops)
4) Sweater for older son which was also supposed to be a Christmas present (double oops)
5) I have a second sock to make for a pair of socks for myself.

Projects I'd like to make in 2014:
1) Nosbonsing socks for myself, mom and sister
2) Socks for my SIL
3) Washcloths and towels for Christmas presents
4) Cardigan or sweater for each of my kids for Christmas 2014.
5) Cardigan for my sister to celebrate her 40th birthday and graduation from teacher's college this spring.

I know there are several other projects I'll start and want to make but these are the ones I would be disappointed about if I didn't finish them.

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