Saturday, March 31, 2007

Greetings from the Hobby-Impaired

by Karen MacInerney

I was thrilled to be invited to guest blog on Killer Hobbies -- what a fabulous group of writers! What an honor!

But then a niggling little thought occurred to me. Gosh. I'm really not much of a hobbyist.

It's not that I haven't tried. My garage and attic contain huge boxes of half-finished latch-hook rugs, skeins of yarn, and crochet needles (I think that's what they are), not to mention a variety of paints, most of which I think are watercolors.

My mother's gift of a sewing machine a few years ago (It still puzzles me -- have we met, mom?) inspired me to take one class that resulted in a lopsided check jumper for my daughter. I even tried knitting a while back, thinking it would be a relaxing and soothing break from writing. I could almost envision the chunky, soft throws, knitted in soft, organic wool, tossed casually over the living room couches. But since knitting gave me carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain, I was forced to abandon it. (Fortunately, I have since discovered that Pottery Barn sells several very nice, knitted-looking throws. But handing people credit cards and unwrapping packages hardly constitutes a real hobby.)

So despite my love of handmade things, I count myself among the hobby-impaired. (I love to cook, though; does that count?)

My poor daughter, on the other hand, has the hobby gene in spades, as a result of which I am forced to face my inadequacy on an almost daily basis. Afternoons off from school invariably mean suggestions we undertake any number of little projects, including, but not limited to, say, shearing sheep, spinning yarn, weaving cloth for and then constructing a period outfit for my daughter's baby doll. Or sponge painting her room with organic paints we have created from sweet potatoes and crushed cherry pits. Or building an origami village out of homemade paper.

My philosophy has been pared down to this: I will undertake a craft only if it is possible to achieve results using thumb tacks and Scotch tape. (My son seems to have inherited this gene, as I find wads of Scotch tape and rocks/toothpicks/feathers/legos stuck in the most interesting places.)

But my poor daughter will grow up deprived, and I feel powerless to help her. I can envision the counseling sessions now: "In third grade, I was a pumpkin in the school play. My mom thumbtacked a Hefty bag together, taped the seams, and spray-painted it orange. I was the laughingstock of the school. And can you believe she thought a collage was something you pinned to your dress for prom?"

Ah, well. I may not be crafty... but at least my kids will know how to make a mean meatloaf.

Karen MacInerney is the author of the Agatha-nominated Gray Whale Inn mystery series and the forthcoming Tales of an Urban Werewolf (Ballantine, Spring '08). You can find her online at and


Deb Baker said...

Monica is on the road and having the standard travel posting problems, so she asked me to post this comment.
This is hilarious! And if you think unfinished projects mean you are "hobby impaired," then every stitcher is hobby impaired -- just come and look at the UFOs in my stash! Cooking can be a hobby, why not? Problem is, of course, that the product can't be hung on the wall or brought out in years to come to ornament the living room. Still, I remember some holiday cooking with fondness. And there is a mystery series about cooking by Diane Mott Davidson. So cook away. And sign your daughter up for classes at a local needlework shop.

Monica Ferris

Linda O. Johnston said...

Sounds as if you have plenty of hobbies. Who says they have to be as productive as some of my co-bloggers'? I said in my very first blog that I consider my pets not hobbies but family, but here I am! Thumb tacks and scotch tape can lead to all sorts of creative stuff... I think. I can picture some anyway.

Years ago, I sewed my own clothes (my mother taught me), and hooked a lot of self-designed rugs. Somehow I seemed to have more time for such things then. I don't miss the clothes, but maybe one of these days I'll return to rug-hooking.

Thanks for joining us! Oh, and BTW, I'll look for both of your series, especially your werewolf one when it comes out. I've a Harlequin Nocturne being published next spring with werewolves in it.

-- Linda

Linda O. Johnston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanna Campbell Slan said...


You aren't hobby-impaired. You just haven't found the right hobby or had a great teacher. Honestly, the best reason to take lessons is so you zoom past the "fail and flail" beginning and go on to feeling productive.

We're glad you stopped by. I love your Great Whale series! And the food? Oh. I gained weight reading your first book!


Camille Minichino said...

I'm happy doing a multi-step crafts project, WHEREAS ... if a recipe is more complicated than "put everything into a bowl and mix," I'm out of there! I'm so glad there are people willing to put the energy into making goodies, especially "complex" brownies!

Karen MacInerney said...


Thanks for the words of encouragement. Maybe I'm not hobby-impaired after all! I have, after all, occasionally baked a successful loaf of bread! (Of course, I used a bread machine, but it requires measuring, so I think it counts.)

And certain cooking products can in fact be used as centerpieces or doorstops for years to come. My great-aunt had a fruitcake recipe that would fit the bill perfectly. ;)

Anyway, at your suggestion, I just signed my daughter up for a ceramics camp this summer, and as she gets older, I'll get her into needlework. And I adore Diane Mott Davidson... in fact, she inspired me to put recipes into my books.

(BTW, I LOVE the UFOs. Hilarious!)

Karen MacInerney said...




I am amazed.

I used to collect all my buttonless items and ask my mom to 'show' me how to do it; she'd do the first five, and I'd only have to do two.

And I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with multiple writing personalities. I can't wait to see your Harlequin... aren't werewolves fun? :)

Karen MacInerney said...


I'm still looking for the perfect hobby. Other than blogging, of course, which is fun, if not exactly decorative. :)

And I'm so glad you enjoyed the first GWI mystery. I remember meeting you last year at Malice -- I'm so jazzed to read your first book! So wonderful to get to combine two passions...

Oh, and I'm putting Natalie on a diet in book 3, by the way. :)

Take care, Joanna, and see you in a few weeks, I hope!

Karen MacInerney said...


You bring the tea cozies, I'll make the brownies.

Deal? :)

Camille Minichino said...

There's not much I wouldn't do for a brownie! See you there!