Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Pizza Method of Writing Novels

I'm starting a new novel, so I'm particularly fascinated by different writers' processes for this stage of the work. I'd heard a lot of praise for Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake" method, but hadn't actually gone to the source until a few days ago.

The gist of Ingermanson's method is that he starts small, with the basic elements of the story, and then goes back and expands each small piece into bigger and bigger units, until they make up a whole novel. The name of the process comes from the image of starting with a simple geometric shape, and then expanding each point into several smaller points, until you end up with a "snowflake," that has all sorts of detailed little branches in all directions. It has the virtue of making a huge project (400 pages! Multiple characters! Plot twists and turns!) into more manageable bites. Ingermanson does a great job, too, of finding the excitement in each of the interim phases, so none of them seem like drudgery, even when they take a good chunk of time.

I do something similar in my writing process for a novel, but I call it the Pizza Method. I start out with this lump of dough (the premise of the story), and then I roll it out into an ever-expanding circle (the narrative outline that keeps getting added to as I figure things out), until it's the right basic shape and size for a pizza (or novel), and then I top it off with all sorts of yummy things (the final details of the story).

I could go on with the metaphor -- the first draft needs to sit and rise for a while before the toppings are added, and  you always want to use the best ingredients -- but I think I'll stop now.

And go get some pizza.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Quilt care instructions

I usually give the recipients of my quilts a page of care instructions, but I'm guessing those instructions get misplaced or grow legs and walk away, so I'm putting the instructions here, for easy reference.


Quilts, like all textiles, are relatively fragile. They are susceptible to light, stains, mildew and simple old age. Most of my quilts are made of 100% cotton fabrics, with a batting made out of 80/20 cotton/polyester.

To prolong the life of your quilt, here are a few hints:

1. Keep out of direct sun. Even a couple hours can fade the colors and make the fabric more brittle.

2. For wall quilts, I usually attach a sleeve on the back upper edge of the quilt. (If not, you can purchase pre-made sleeves from quilt shops, although you'd need to attach it to the back, using a hem stitch through the backing fabric. They're really the best way to hang a quilt, so that the fabric isn't damaged, and the weight is evenly distributed.)  Insert a dowel or curtain rod in the sleeve and rest the dowel/rod on nails or other wall supports. Do not use push pins; they rust, and because they distribute the quilt’s weight unevenly, they may tear the fabric.

3. Whenever the quilt is stored, it should be wrapped in fabric that has been washed to remove sizing (an old cotton pillowcase is perfect), never in plastic. If stored for a long time, it should first be rolled around a cardboard tube (as long as the shortest side of the quilt) that is covered with fabric, or else refolded every year to avoid permanent creases.

4. The quilt is machine washable and dryable. Do not use bleach (for obvious reasons) or fabric softener (which breaks down the fibers and shortens the life of textiles). Do not dry clean or line dry (the weight of the water can damage the textiles). Use cool water to maintain the brightness of the fabrics, and a medium dryer setting. The quilt will last longer if it’s washed less frequently, so if the quilt is not actually dirty, just dusty, it’s better to run it through a “fluff” (no heat) cycle in the dryer or, for wall quilts, simply vaccuum it with a nozzle covered with an old knee-high nylon or the foot of an old pair of pantihose.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Crazy cats

This is a wall-hanging, made from just one large, many-pieced block plus a border.

I later went on to make a bed-sized quilt with five of these blocks using a novelty print with little umbrellas instead of cats.

Here's a closer view of the crazy bow-tied cats:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Colonoscopy diet

It's time for a colonoscopy, and I knew about the fast the day before the procedure, and the clean-out procedure, but I didn't know about the diet for the two days before the fast.

The brochure from the doctor's office explains that I'm not supposed to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains or cereals. That pretty much cuts out everything I normally eat -- oatmeal and raisins for breakfast (forbidden), fruits as snacks (forbidden), protein (allowed) plus vegetables and whole grains for dinner (forbidden). The diet allows white rice and bread and pasta, but over the last few years, I've switched my pasta and breads to whole wheat and my rice to brown, so they're forbidden too. The whole diet is pretty much "avoid everything that's healthy."

I was complaining to a friend that there was nothing left that I was allowed to eat. She said that was her first reaction to the "diet," too, and then she had an inspiration. "Three words," she said. "Bacon double cheeseburger."

Yep. It's allowed (as long as there's no pickle, no onions, no ketchup and no whole-wheat bun, and definitely no healthy salad on the side).