Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Can a writer run out of ideas? Probably. I haven’t yet, and I’m working on the fifteenth Betsy Devonshire novel. But the remaining ideas aren’t stored in my brain or on a computer file. In fact, I don’t know more than vaguely what the book to follow Threadbare is about -- though I have the title: And Then You Dye.

When I got really serious about writing as a profession, when the ideas would grip me in a relentless fashion, sometimes I was surprised at a plot twist. “Wow, where did that come from?” I’d murmur. I developed a strange theory to explain it. Writers, I said, are born with invisible antennae sticking up out of their heads. Remember Uncle Martin on the old “My Favorite Martian” television show? Like that. Except invisible. And all the stories ever written or to be written are circling the earth in a kind of invisible Van Allen Belt. And these stories broadcast themselves down to the surface of the earth, but can only be heard by writers through their antennae. Not every writer can hear every story. Depending on how their antennae are tuned, they can write science fiction, or mysteries, or love stories, or thrillers, or mainstream stories. That’s why every writer I have known will agree they have had the experience of reading the words as they are beamed out of space, pass through the brain, and pour out onto the paper or onto the screen, and saying, “I didn’t know that!”

On her blog entry yesterday, Camille wrote about her sources for the Miniatures background of her novels. It’s wonderful that she does a lot of research and practices the skills her sleuth has. I’m getting more and more serious about needlework. I subscribe to four needlework magazines, and study closely or even try out some of the patterns or techniques described in their pages. The ads often give me something to mention Betsy is carrying in her shop. One magazine is not aimed at the stitchers, but at the owners of the stitchery shops. I was very pleased to discover there is such a magazine, which I came across at a needlework market, where shop owners gather to buy the latest products for their shops. (I was permitted to become an associate member of a guild of needlework shopowners.)

I attend regional and national needlework conventions. I am finally about to become a member of the local chapter of Embroiders Guild of America, which meets monthly and where members take classes, show off projects, eat, and talk. This month the class is on drawn-thread bookmarks. I haven’t tried drawn-thread, so this should be interesting.

We have organized a weekly stitching and jigsaw-puzzle group in the co-op where I live. (I don’t know how the jigsaw women ended up meeting at the same time the stitchers do, but they are every bit as dedicated to their projects as we are to ours.) We learn from one another and offer support as we work on individual projects.

I have drawers full of projects, very few completed, many more unfinished. I’m a slow stitcher so I often don’t finish a project before I have finished writing about it, and it too-often ends up in a drawer, a threaded needle stuck in a corner. Some I would really like to get back to. Maybe some day, when I run out of ideas . . .


Linda O. Johnston said...

Oh, I doubt you'll ever run out of ideas, Monica. You're more likely to run out of unfinished needlework projects!

Betty Hechtman said...

Your fifteenth book - Impressive!