Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Question of the Day: What do you like to read in fiction?

I have a confession to make. Most of you know I'm first of all a writer and a wanna be or utilitarian seamstress.

My specialty is nonfiction. Personal essays published in a variety of anthologies from Knit Lit to Cup of Comfort and some between. Also magazine articles including Quilters World, Ohio Magazine, Birds and Blooms, Notre Dame Magazine, etc. And several years worth of feature articles for various newspapers where I served as reporter, editor, columnist, etc. And then the years as freelance writer for Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post, etc.

 Along the way I have 'secretly' delved into fiction, winning an award for The Vigil and publishing a few short stories. If you check out The Vigil, you'll see it is listed as nonfiction -- maybe creative nonfiction since its based upon a personal experience, but I consider it fiction.

Always in the back of my mind is the goal of publishing a novel.

Well, I haven't reached the 'published' goal, yet for a novel. But on my way to that end, I started this blog named for the working title of the series I'm writing -- Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles. This is a project that has been fermenting for quite some time.

So my question is -- what would you like to see in a novel with such a title? Or what you're tired of seeing and hope no one ever writes about again!

I keep switching characters and plots and can't seem to figure out where this is going. But next month, November is NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) and I plan to devote it to Subversive Stitchers.

Please don't hesitate to wade in with what you wish you could see in a book that has stitchers, fabric artists, quilts, and needles in it!

Thanks so much. Obviously I am going to need alot of nudging and prodding to get this project finished. I hope you'll keep me on track.


Lis said...

I am a fan of GOOD historical fiction - very well researched, based on factual events, including real people, places and events as well as fictional ones. I like Phillippa Gregory for example. If you want needles in your novels you must must must include 8 February - Hari-kuyo- The Festival of Broken Needles, in Japanese culture, what a fantastic concept, see Good luck, keep us informed!

Dawn said...

Maybe this is just a weepy day for me but your quick response brought tears to my eyes. I live in a world where most people close to me do not take my writing seriously. Thank you so much for understanding how serious this is for me! And I so appreciate the suggestion. Just reading the word 'festival of broken needles' gave me goosebumps!

Thank you.

Mary K. McGraw said...

My mind went two ways when I saw your proposed title. One was a murder mystery. The second was a historical fiction where women with their needles made a difference.

I read about NANOWRIMO, as my husband is an unpublished writer and thought it was a challenging concept. Good Luck!!

Michigoose said...

Hmm. The two genres...ok...three genres, oops four if you count quilting books, are: mysteries (murder/suspense...I don't go for gory and I REALLLY hate gratuitous sex although if it supports the plot, it's fine); historical based...err...I guess most of them are romances (ARGH!); and historical monographs...

I prefer to engage my brain which is why I like mysteries....I'm trying to solve them! I especially like the protaganists as someone I can relate to, such as Dorothy Cannell's heroine who constantly struggles with weight and self-doubt.

Recently, some quilt shop owners here got together and the three of them collaborated on a mystery. What spoiled it for me was that they didn't do their homework. They had a breast cancer patient who got radiation therapy but no chemo and they had her loosing her hair and vomiting. Sorry folks, radiation burns yes, losing hair only if you have radiation to the skull and that's a localized loss, and I assure vomiting with radiation. Spoiled the whole dang thing and as a survivor it really ticked me off.

Long post for a short answer. Sorry. :)

Dawn said...

I love your Michigoose moniker! And your answer was perfect. Never too long! And I agree -- getting the facts right is such a major aspect of fiction. Seems ironic that facts are so important in a make believe world. :)


Jan Myhre said...

While browsing the gift shop in Westminster, I came across samples of gorgeous stitchery. A historical novel about the women behind the powerful in England might be an exciting direction to take. Good luck. I'll watch for your debut.

Nora said...

PROs-Acknowledgement that quilters run the gamut from obnoxiously vile to semi-sainthood and indulge in a range of lifestyles that accommodate geography, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, and skin color.

CONs-Calico worship, shears and cutters that are always sharp, the use of pattern names as parable, and the assumption that wise and tolerant grannyhood awaits us at the quilting bee or guild meeting.

Dawn said...

Hi Jan, that sounds intriguing. Thank you! I met a talented 'needler' who had the honor of joining Princess Grace of Monaco for somekind of needlepoint event that the princess regularly sponsored. Your comment made me think of that. Hmmmm. Good idea.

And Nora -- I soooooo agree with your cons. No patterns as parables nor granny type quilters in my book! Thanks for reinforcing what I had been thinking. And I agree with your pro thoughts, too. So far, I think you might like what I've jotted down over the years.


Lisa said...

I'm very sad to read that the people close to you do not take your writing seriously when you have published so much. I suppose you make it look so easy that they don't realize what skill and talent are required for good writing. Keep on plugging away and look for your validation within. You are awesome.

I love to read Young Adult fiction because it isn't filled with raw language or graphic sex. I like scifi, fantasy and mysteries and I love a little romance thrown in. That said DON'T write about vampires. lol A little overdone lately due to the success of you know what. Although a needle wielding vampire could be pretty funny!
But seriously - have you read about the woman/people in Austriala who have knit ins? They do it to beautify an area. It's an interesting concept and would be interesting to write into a book. :D Best wishes for many words!

Dawn said...

Thanks Lisa. Most of the time it doesn't matter what others think about my writing -- unless it is the editor who I hope is going to buy it! :) I'm just a bit insecure about fiction writing. As you can see. :)

I visited the site you mentioned and have to agree these are people who would have amazing stories to tell. I visited a related site where a very traditional knitted neck scarf was rolled around a toilet paper roll and hung from a traditional TP holder. It made me laugh out loud. So creative using such traditional items in that unconventional way. Thank you so much for the link. And the writing suggestions. Hmmmm a needle wielding vampire. :)


Aida Costa said...

I'm quite certain I'm in the minority, but I'm not much of a fiction fan, to be honest. I have a gazillion books and about 95% are non-fiction.

Having said that, I completely agree with Lis regarding GOOD, well researched historical fiction. Phillippa Gregory and Mary Renault are my two faves and I have a complete set of Renault's first editions (fun to source out at used bookshops because they're so affordable!).

James Michener is an example of an author I respect, but he includes way to much narrative for my taste. His enormous books could easily be halved without compromising the story. The Source, however, is an excellent piece of historical fiction and it's one of my all time favourites.

Anne Rice's vampire series (the first four books, anyway) really grabbed me when I first read them years ago. Not historical fiction, but set in past centuries with tons of exquisite detail. But she tends to be narrative heavy with lots of extraneous details that detract from the story.

For fiction set in modern times the book has to really resonate with me on a personal, emotional level. Of course, my particular version of what that means will differ from others', but for what it's worth, my two favourite books are Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller and Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro.

I'm also a Harry Potter FANATIC. It's the combination of heavy dialogue (being a children's series there aren't pages and pages of narrative), the 'intrigue' and the amazing details of this fictional world. It's not great literature, but it's certainly great entertainment that sucked me in, lol.

I haven't read How To Make An American Quilt, however if the movie is faithful to the book, then it's an excellent example of my kind of fiction - explores the emotions and lives of women, incorporates needlework brilliantly and has an excellent pace.

I'll give you an example of the type of fiction I despise - Regency and Victorian romances!! I know I'm most DEFINITELY in the minority on this.

Since I'm not a big fiction fan, I'm not sure how much of what I've shared will be useful to you but hopefully I've given you a little food for thought :)

Dawn said...

Aida -- Thank you! Excellent comments and observations and I must admit that you and I share the same likes (and dislikes) of fiction. How to Make An American Quilt is one I particularly like.


Dolores said...

With all the machine quilting that is happening now, I would love to read about women taking up the needle and doing some hand work. Slow, steady, easy hand work. A revolt to doing things the way they used to be done.
Good luck on the writing. My son does the 3-day novel writing contest.

Karoda said...

I'll just wade in that everytime I read the title of your blog I think of radical bad ass women, culturally diverse who tackle heavy emotional, political, etc issues of their day (historical or current) and use their weekly "needle" sessions to discuss, plot, and plan.

Dawn said...

All comments are so helpful. Thank you. And Karoda, its good to know that at the least the title conveys the message I'm going for. :) You've summed up Subversive Stitchers beautifully.

Dolores, you take subversive in a different direction. Interesting. I can see at least one purist in the mix, too.

Thanks so much!


Deb Thuman said...

What I NEVER want to read again: Kelly the knitter saying, "Whoa!" That writer uses the word like a comma. Ugh!

What I like: a mystery that has twists and turns. A mystery with well-developed characters. Mysteries with goofy characters like Stephanie Plum. I enjoy quilt mysteries with historical content.

What I could do without: Sex scenes. I'm not 14 any more and when it comes to sex scenes, less is way more.

Please tell us when the book is out so I can buy a copy. I'm looking forward to reading your book.

wlstarn said...

I just finished Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant. It takes place in a convent in Ferrara, Italy in 1570, yet the characters were totally believable. The author does her homework: a 3 page bibliography is at the end of the book, and she clearly researched every detail.

On a more contemporary note, I have to read everything by Jodi Picoult. Again, well-researched, and I don't think I have ever found a spelling/grammar error in one of her books (sadly, too common. Too much reliance on spell-check). She presents controversial topics in a way that makes the reader see both sides (or more) of an issue, yet packs it into a page-turner. If I gave you a list of all my favorite authors, it would take up the whole comment column.

Dawn said...

Thanks for your comments Wendy. I've heard Sarah Dunant compared to Diana Gabaldon (I believe that's right) as they both write historical novels and Sarah mentioned Gabaldon's characters in her first book. Yes, both are well researched and I do love that. I haven't read Dunant -- I must rectify that. As for Jodi Picoult -- ohhh yeah! Sometimes her writing makes me see things I don't want to see!!! Both excellent examples. Feel free to send me your reading list via email. :)


magpie said...

The needle is a very interesting tool and symbolic of many things to many people. For me the needle is symbolic of process. Each jab, each stitch, each formation reflecting pain, anger, healing, love and joy.
Sometimes when I get into what I would call a stitching frenzy I think of Charles Dickens’ Mme Defarge, as I encode so many thoughts, wishes and dreams into my work; but unlike madam, who had a hit list of sorts, I tend to use that energy to take care of emotional, philosophical, spiritual and creative business.

And bad ass, Karoda? Yup! You betcha! and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Dawn said...

Magpie you are a dear -- thank you soooo much. I'm searching, searching for the symbolism and meaning of every aspect of this novel from needles to setting and this is MOST helpful. Thank you!