Archives for June 2015

Making Quilts, Writing Books


Now I see why so many people get hooked on quilting. It’s all those fantastic fabrics, with their beautiful colors and designs.

Right now, I’m working on a picnic blanket quilt that uses the Bugapalooza fabrics designed by Jennifer Jangles. I may back it with a waterproof material, since this will be used on the ground, or maybe a heavy twill or canvas, as Jennifer (whose real name is Jennier Heynen) suggests. You can find her instructions for making your own picnic blanket here.

After putting words together all day for the middle grade novel I’m writing, Whistling for Elephants, piecing a few cloth squares is a welcome break. My eyes are hungry for colors beyond the black and white of the printed page, and for patterns that aren’t just blocks of text on a computer screen.

But even while I’m quilting, my brain is churning with plot ideas, and I’m trying to think up new descriptions and snappy dialogue to make my characters come alive.

Writing for children isn’t easy. You’ve got to remember what it’s like to play and forget the distractions of being a grown-up. This week, my distractions have included paying for a new car transmission, learning to cook for someone on a very restricted diet, cleaning the house, walking the dogs (who shed so much in the summertime heat, they double my housework), and–well, you get the idea.

A few weeks ago, my agent asked me to write a new outline for my book, to help me double its length and dive deeper into the story, and I’ve just finished it. Now I’m waiting for his comments before I start writing again. This agent has a strong editorial background, and I’m grateful for his guidance.

To be honest, I wish the writing work was done, but there’s more ahead before my manuscript is ready to submit to publishers.

Sometimes I get discouraged, because I’ve worked on this book for so long. In some ways, writing is like making a quilt. You make a block for your quilt; you scribble a paragraph for your book. Next you join the blocks into rows, and the paragraphs into chapters. Eventually, you stand back and look at what you’ve got and decide whether you need to add more here or take away something there.

When you finally see the pattern you’re aiming for, and it pleases your eye and heart, you know your work is finished.