It took a few months for me to get my work life in order earlier this year so I could do as little work as possible on the road. As it turned out, that ended up meaning a bunch of stuff I did before May came out while we were away. In case I did a sub-par job of letting you know about it when I was relying mostly on my phone – with terrible cell service and nearly nonexistent wifi – here’s what came out while I was otherwise cavorting through the desert with my family:
Next Steps in Crochet (that’s a half-price link right there), my new Craftsy class. It’s an advanced-beginner class, designed to be, um, a great next step for people who are comfortable with basic crochet stitches and techniques and are ready to up their game. If this is you, I hope to see you in there! Here’s way more about the class. (And if you don’t know how to crochet yet, my beginner class will get you going. I promise. [That’s also a half-price link.])
I did a long and meaty interview with Dave Conrey on the Fresh Rag podcast, in which I talk about a bunch of things I rarely address explicitly (like how my religious non-belief relates to my creative life and my identity as a person and my own internal consistency across my personal, work and creative lives, and more). I finally had a chance to listen to the interview, and I’m proud of it. I agree with everything I say – which doesn’t always happen, because it can be hard to say a complex or sensitive thing well when you’re doing it off the cuff and it’s being recorded – even when I was ready to cringe because I was sure I was going to say something not quite right or downright dumb. Also, there are shout-outs to Wil Wheaton, JK Rowling, Oliver Burkeman, and my drinking buddies from college. If you have a little over an hour, I hope you’ll give it a listen and let me know if it brings anything up for you.
I finished up a huge editing project before the trip, which means I have some time available now, if you have a project you’d like to work on together. I have time enough to take on a larger project like a book/ebook, or a bunch of smaller project, like craft patterns/tutorials, essays, etc. (If you’re new to the editing game, I’ll walk you through what I can do for you. Just ask!)
To celebrate being home, here’s a coupon for 15% off orders over $5 in my shop (or on Etsy); use code YAYHOME15.
The most ambitious book I’ve had the pleasure of editing is, hands down, Donna Druchunas’s and June Hall’s Lithuanian Knitting. Born of a mutual fascination with and personal dedication to the knitting traditions of this Eastern European country, the book is equal parts memoir, historical overview, and celebration of folk craft, and of course it contains a trove of knitting patterns and technique-related information.
In addition to releasing an ebook version, as per the usual self-publishing path, Donna and June want to have a hard-cover version printed in Lithuania, to support the local economy of the place so dear to them. To accomplish that expensive goal, they’ve recently launched a Pubslush crowdfunding campaign.
It’s such an unusual decision – to have a book printed in a faraway place not known globally for printing (like China is), and to crowdfund a book (which has certainly been done before, and after all it’s what Pubslush is entirely dedicated to, but it’s still not common practice) – that I asked Donna if she’d answer some questions about it. Here’s what she had to say:
KPW: First, tell me a little bit about the book.
DC: Lithuanian Knitting: Continuing Traditions is a travel-memoir-history-knitting book! Together with my co-author June Hall, I’ve created a book that tells our stories of traveling around the country were some of our ancestors were born learning about the people and culture all through knitting. We both have been to Lithuania many times and over the years have made many friends who have helped us find amazing information about traditional and contemporary knitting, textiles, sheep, wool, and folk art. It’s been the experience of a lifetime working on this project. Along with all of the stories, there are 25 projects to knit, including mittens, gloves, wrist warmers, and socks.
Why did you decide to use Pubslush instead of self-publishing in a more traditional manner (print-on-demand, etc.)?
I’m publishing this book in partnership with Double Vision Press (Anne Berk) and will be having the book printed in Lithuania with the funds from Pubslush. Pubslush is simply a crowdfunding tool like Kickstarter, but it’s only for books! I don’t use print-on-demand because for the various options available either a) I don’t like the quality or b) the cost per book is too high. By working with a regular book printer, I can keep costs down per book and get the best possible quality. I am having this book printed in Lithuania with a very Eastern European style of design, and cover. Our art director is also in Lithuania.
What’s your experience with Pubslush been like? Do you find the platform easy to use? How are people responding to the campaign?
It’s great. The folks at Pubslush are so helpful and I’ve had a great response to the campaign so far. It’s only just started today and I’m thrilled by the early contributions and feedback in the comments.
I know the campaign has only just launched, but do you think you’ll use Pubslush again? Is it better suited to certain kinds of projects over others? Would you recommend it? And if you would, to whom?
I’m not sure. I mean, I would definitely recommend Pubslush. But the books I’m working on right now for the future are either with a publisher or they’re part of my Stories In Stitches series, which has a different cycle. If I ever did another big self-published book, I would definitely go with Pubslush for my launch.
I learned so much editing this book. Whether you’re already interested in Lithuania or Lithuanian knitting or not, I think you’ll enjoy it too. Check it out!
As we discuss in the podcast, I’ve read Rachael’s blog for about a decade. Such is my admiration of her dedication to her writing, craft, job and family that I interviewed her for my book Make It Mighty Ugly. She walks her talk, man. She walks her talk.
AND, Rachael has offered to send a signed copy of her new novel, Splinters of Light, to one randomly chosen commenter on this post. I’ll randomly choose said commenter at 3PM Pacific on Tuesday, 31st March. Be cool and write something in response to something from the podcast, eh? I mean, that’s not a rule or anything, but it sure would make for interesting reading. Just saying.
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At the very end of 2013, after my first properly relaxing holiday in a couple of years, I had a major realization about my general situation. I realized that I was wrong when I thought I’d gracefully handled becoming a parent on such short notice at the end of 2010, when in fact I’d handled it gracefully only in my personal life. Over the previous three years, I’d managed to completely hoop my business.
So I started 2014 excited by my realization, and eager to mend my broken professional life.
The Year, Professionally
I decided my theme for the year would be STRENGTH. I wanted my work to stand on firmer ground. I wanted to feel more financially secure. I wanted to get my body in shape. Rather than feeling like I was constantly treading water, I wanted to start pulling some solid strokes.
Over the course of 2014, I:
billed more for editing in the first quarter than I had in all of 2013 (which isn’t saying much, except that it also speaks volumes).
projects I worked on included three books and quite a few craft patterns.
revamped my weekly newsletter, nearly doubled its size, and actually sent it pretty much every week.
Do I feel like my business is stronger at the end of 2014? Hells yes, I do. Many of the projects I started or grew will continue into next year, which is a very welcome change from the short-lived, flash-in-the-pan projects that defined the previous few years. (I’m continuing my newsletter and podcast, will teach at Craftcation again, will experiment with selling more soap, will do another #yearofmaking, and will continue with both my Etsy and self-hosted shops.)
Though not a raging bestseller, Make It Mighty Ugly has been, as far as I can tell, very well received. It got a starred review in Library Journal, which, duh, made me super happy. I’ve heard from perfect strangers about how much they’ve enjoyed the book, and that’s pretty much all I need to consider it a success. (I have no idea how well it’s been selling; I won’t know until I get my first royalties statement in a month or two.)
I remain completely in love with the ideas of Mighty Ugly, and I look forward to continuing to explore them in the coming year.
Some Thoughts on Editing
I hired an editor when I was working on the Year of Making ebook, and not only did she make the book so much better, I got to experience a phenomenon a couple of my own editing clients have reported to me: I made back the cost of editing in the first twenty-four hours my ebook was out. That’s three separate anecdotes, and though they certainly do not a guarantee make, I do find it fascinating. Of course, each of those books was written by an author who has an audience that was excited for the book, and the books were written with those audiences in mind. If a prospective client comes to me and they have an established audience, too, I’ll certainly mention this anecdote to them. Editing is not terribly expensive, and it’s quite possible that with a strong product, a solid platform and some good marketing, you can make your editing fee up in the first day your book is out.
I’m ending the year with an idea for my next book; I’ve just signed a contract with some very smart, creative people to do more online teaching (more on that very soon!); I’m awaiting a new manuscript to edit (from a repeat client!); I’ve lined up a steady editing schedule with another repeat client; I have a Mighty Ugly professional-development workshop scheduled for July (I’ve wanted to do MU workshops in this context for years; even just one is more than I did in 2014, so that’s exciting!); and I’m considering selling soap at my first in-person market. This is a far stronger start compared to last year. That firmer foundation I wanted to establish? Established.
And hells yes, that makes me feel strong.
2014 was the year I started enjoying jogging and running. I’d never enjoyed it before, despite several attempts, but this year I found myself eager to do it. Yesterday, in fact, we bought a treadmill, such is my desire to run even when it’s dark out and even when it’s pissing rain.
That said, I’ve spent the last quarter of the year a bit of a mess. A foot injury in September prevented me from running for two months. After staying perfectly healthy through a truly nutty October (book tour!), a wicked stomach bug in November knocked me on my ass for four days, and set me two full weeks behind in work just as the calendar started barreling toward Christmas. So though my foot was healed by the end of November, I couldn’t even entertain the idea of starting my running habit back up, for I felt the need to be chained to my desk chair (I did get all the work done).
Then Greg’s semester ended and we took off work a week early to visit some friends and camp in our wee camper in their driveways. Owen had the sniffles when we left, but it turned out what he really had was the plague. Then Greg got it. Then I got it. We cut our short trip short by a couple of days, and three days after we returned home I discovered I’d turned that plague into shingles (caught very early, thankfully; I’m pretty much fine!). I suppose the shingles should force me to realize I’ve perhaps ended the year not as strong, physically, as I’d wanted.
It does serve as a pretty effective wake-up call. I tend to be conservative about pushing myself too hard, but I see now that I wasn’t conservative enough this fall (then again, book tour! Too hard or not, that one was a no-brainer). Also, as a family, we need to remember to take a proper, relaxing holiday at the end of the year. Road trips are awesome, but they’re not relaxing.
But hey, looking ahead to 2015, we’re going to take an epic road trip in May and June. It’s the last time we’ll be able to do such a thing during the not-crazy-July-and-August season before Owen starts kindergarten. So I’ll arrange my work schedule around this epic trip, and I do believe I’m in a position to do that fairly gracefully (because I have wonderful clients who think epic road trips are worth working around). We’ll see. (By “epic” I mean we’re going to spend about five weeks on the road with our wee camper, driving a massive loop around the western U.S., going as far south as Southern California, and as far east as New Mexico and Wyoming. National Parks, here we come!)
As for my creative life, #yearofmaking certainly had a profound effect on pretty much everything. I’ve become a maker in my fullest understanding of the word. My commitment to tinkering, experimenting and trying new things has left me feeling downright capable, and that’s totally in line with my over-arching goal of building strength. I’ve become utterly comfortable flailing around in front of others as I try new things (often ungracefully). This was the year the “mighty” in Mighty Ugly really settled in for me. I started 2014 a yarn crafter who occasionally sewed, and I ended it obsessed with painting and making soap (and still knitting and crocheting, and I’ll be doing a lot of sewing in the coming months).
My kid (he’s four now; I’m dying from it), it turns out, is a bit of a perfectionist. His desire to know how to do something seems to get in the way of him actually learning how, but he also seems to have internalized that we’re a family that makes things. We made gifts together this holiday season, and he proudly gave them out. He knows that everyday things like soap and lotion and bath fizzies are made by us. He makes requests.
I took him to an arts crawl last month, and was fascinated to see what interested him. He’s an object guy, that’s for sure. Decorative art meant nothing to him, but he was interested in pottery and woodwork. He’s also pretty Lego obsessed (he’s a to-the-letter instruction-follower).
He’s taught me that though I’ve become pretty ace (if I say so myself) at nudging grown-ups to confront their creative demons, I know almost nothing of a preschooler’s way of thinking. I default, as is almost always a good parenting strategy, I’ve found, when safety isn’t an issue, to leaving it alone. But I do intend to occasionally experiment in 2015 to see if anything sparks an impulse in him to create beyond the scope of Lego. (If he doesn’t, I won’t worry about it; he’s got the fine motor coordination, so there’s simply no need.)
Socially, this year was a challenge, especially since August. It’s hard to be a working parent and a (gregarious) introvert and also see friends on a regular basis. I just love being at home, and there’s very little that will entice me out of here after a solid day’s work and a couple of hours with my family. More often than not, my pajamas go on right after I put Owen to bed at around 7:30.
But however much I love being a homebody, I also value my friendships with others. And that means I have to get out. This coming year, I’ll need to figure out how to manage that in such a way that’s rewarding rather than stressful. One thing I certainly want to do is more regularly attend the weekly knit night at my local yarn store.
Really, I just need to stop writing this post. There are loads of directions I could go in, but we’ll have friends arriving in a couple of hours for a party, and I need to tidy up the place (and if I manage it quickly, I intend to paint my nails all kinds of sparkly).
Over the last several years, we’ve had some doozies, of the we’re-not-dead-so-we’re-stronger variety. 2014 was most certainly not one of those years. It was a year of growth, joy, connection, accomplishment and strength. I’ve done a good job of not downplaying that. It’s a true delight to say I’ve had a good year. It’s certainly not something I’ve taken for granted, and I’m going to do my best to take the good feeling into 2015 with me. Hopefully, it will grow.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, for supporting my work with your hard-earned money and your invaluable words, and for your quiet contemplation. I hope you, too, had a solid year of strength and growth, and that 2015 is a year of health, happiness and continued adventure for you and yours.
Kate Atherley has a knack for explaining things clearly. For the last decade, she’s applied that knack to knitting, working as a designer, teacher and technical editor. And now, she’s written a book that takes all of her experience and boils it down for all designers to benefit from.
I edited Pattern Writing for Knit Designers, and I loved working with Kate. But more than that, I’m just so excited that this book is out in the world. It’s for everyone from utter pattern-writing beginners to seasoned pros. Kate breaks down the sections of a knitting pattern (they’re the same for crochet, obviously), she addresses common issues related to naming stitches and sizing designs, and she highlights advice from other professionals and from avid knitters.
This book is thorough. And comprehensive. I think it could very well make the entire world of knitting better.
I wrote about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in Make It Mighty Ugly, and I said I’d probably participate this year. And so, though I didn’t have a clue what to write a novel about until I was in bed on Friday night, I’m doing it. After all, I did say I’d do it. In print. That’s practically like writing it in blood.
The idea of NaNoWriMo is that you write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. The reason I mention it in MIMU, and why I think it’s so great, is that the focus of the whole challenge is on quantity rather than quality. It’s about just getting it done, not about getting it done well. It’s not uncommon for fellow challenge-takers to wish each other well on their shitty novel. Because you can’t write a great novel in thirty days. But you sure can write a shitty one. And then you can revise and rework it into a great novel (or not) another time. (I’m pretty sure Water for Elephants came from NaNoWriMo. [I found that book a disappointment, but loads and loads of people loved it.])
The whole point is simply to write a novel, and to not concern yourself with good writing.
I’ve never written a novel. I’m not a writer who has a handful of novels sitting in a drawer in my desk (also, my desk doesn’t have drawers). I have, however, started NaNoWriMo at least twice before, and not finished.
So this time I’m determined to finish. This time, I know I can write a 50,000-word book, because I have. And I know I can stick with a daily challenge, because I have. So I’m in a different place than I was the other times I took on this challenge then bailed.
What do you say? Are you in? It’s not too late to start!
On Friday night, when I asked Greg what I should write about, he told me I should write something to do with a hairdryer factory closing down. That’s a terrible idea, but it’s one more idea than I’d had without it, and so I went with it. (You may or may not be pleased by my assurance that the factory in my novel is not a hairdryer factory.)
I’m not concerned about how shitty my novel may be, but I am concerned that I’ll have nothing to write about. Then again, at the time I’m writing this post, I’ve written more than 3,000 words, so.
So far, my novel is terrible, but my word count is on target.
I’m going to follow Rachael Herron‘s advice from MIMU and try to do my novel writing before I start my workday every morning, so then it will be done and I won’t have to concern myself with it at the end of the day when I’m tired and lazy.