Saturday, February 23, 2008

The question

Today is my launch party today. WooHoo! There will be quilts, food, and plenty of smiling faces. All the elements for a great day.

I’m looking forward to it. Especially the Q&A. I can guess what some of the questions will be. Where do you get your ideas? Is that quilting diva based on Alex Anderson and/or Eleanor Burns? Am I in it? Did you kill off someone you loathe? Am I the pretty one or the really annoying sister-in-law?

I’m not looking forward to the one question that gets asked of both quilters and writers: “How long did it take to: (Insert here) make that quilt/finish that novel?”

How long did it take? I find that impossible to answer. I don’t work to deadline with my quilts. I sew because I like to. The quilt is finished when the pattern is complete or the quilt is large enough to cover the bed. Or perhaps the baby has arrived two weeks early. Sometimes my inner designer tells me it’s finished.

How long did it take? How would I track the time? There’s the actual sewing time, of course. I could keep a log of time spent in the studio. What about the germinating? Just like novels, ideas for quilts come from everywhere. Do I count the time star-gazing that led me to sprinkling my sky with crystals? What about the long walks, where I often come up with a new solution to a tricky piecing problem. Shopping the quilt shops is an integral part. Do I count sleeping time if the right fabric choice came to me in the middle of the night? And how about studying time? Museum time, classes? Techniques learned and discarded often find a place in a different quilt.

How long did it take? What I want to know is what the questioner is really thinking with that question. Is it: a) If I had that kind of time, I could have done a better job. Or b) What a colossal waste of a life.

How long did it take? My first book took over five years to write, by the calendar. But that doesn’t take in Mr. Robinson’s senior English class or the business writing in night school or the proposal writing classes at the extension. The writers conferences, the seminars, the how-to books. The words that were cut, the drafts discarded, the characters axed. The other stories (typed, for crying out loud) that were almost sent into Redbook’s story contest.

So when that person in the back row, raises her hand and sweetly asks, “How long did it take you to write Wild Goose Chase?” I’ll be prepared. I know the answer.

My whole life.


Camille Minichino said...

You took the words right out of my mouth, Terri!

My first novel was published in the year I turned 60 and I always answered that question, "60 years."

Thanks for describing the process so well.

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Anonymous said...

It is so true that everything we do is part of our entire life. Good luck today and have fun. I will be picking up your book on my next trip to the book store.

Becky Levine said...

Congrats for having the right answer! Rick Riordan (wonderful mystery & children's writer) blogged about having people rave about his "overnight" success. Basically...NOT.

Can't wait to see you at the launch party. Get those signing muscles warmed up.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Congratulations on your launch party!

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Betty Hechtman said...

I loved your piece. It is so true. I got the question a lot about Blue Schwartz. It's about a thirteen year old babysitter and you could say I've been working on it since I was a thirteen year old babysitter.

I hope your launch party was a big success. I ordered your book from Amazon and it came yesterday. I am going to Chicago on Saturday and am taking it along for my plane reading. I can't wait. I love the cover, particulary the placement of your name.

Jean said...

I am a quilter(not a professional or an expert by any means), and I love reading mysteries. I found "Wild Goose Chase" on Amazon, ordered it immediately and read it straight through. What fun! I am looking forward to your next book. I enjoyed your blog comments about how long writing or quilting takes. I teach seventh grade English, and they always want to know how long something should be. I always answer, "As big as a dog."

Jean said...

I am a quilter (not a professional or an expert by any means), and I love reading mysteries. I found "Wild Goose Chase" on Amazon, ordered it immediately, and read it straight through. What fun! I am already looking forward to the next one.