Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The right life

I was listening to a podcast the other day. An older female writer being interviewed, and she answered a question about why so many creative people give up on their dreams just before things get big. She said part of it is fear, because by that point we don't believe that good things will happen, but the other is that they reached a certain age and realized that they don't have a house or a 401k and they have no idea what their future is going to look like. And that's terrifying in a whole different way. 

That really resonated, and perhaps it's why I'm so gung-ho now. I did 30 years at a job - while writing for myself in my free time - and I had a house. I have the 401k. When we moved from Philadelphia to the burbs six years ago, we sold our West Philly houses and bought the new one for cash. It's much smaller than what we had before, but that's fine. Neither of us are extravagant. We don't need big houses, expensive cars, or nice clothes to wear for non-existent office jobs. 

So this later-in-life writing career suits me to a T. I may not have as many years as someone who starts in their twenties, but I've gotten the hard work and the bulk of the worry out of the way. We won't be homeless or hungry or wonder what the future will bring, other than the standard existential dread that afflicts us all from time to time. And I've lived a lot and learned a lot and written a lot in those intervening years. 

All in all, despite it having felt weird to be a debut author in my mid-50s, it's absolutely the right life for me now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

A little sewing on the side

Another day, another vintage wedding gown to give myself fits over cutting into.

This time the gown was from 1946, and the customer (daughter of the 1946 bride) wanted 13 drawstring jewelry pouches for members of her daughter's bridal party.

I love the passing down of these gowns into functional things.

There was a small problem, however. The gown had been stored in the basement - in a plastic bag. The mildew streaks on the underside of the satin looked like rust. I told her to take it to the dry cleaner and tell them to clean it as well as they could, not worrying about shrinkage or minor damage, and that faded it somewhat, but the resulting fabric was still somewhat rusty in spots.

I'm calling it part of its sentimental charm, and hopefully they will too.

The brief was for 10 small bags and 3 larger ones, lined with the gown's original slip. That didn't work, either. The numbers, yes. The slip, no. It was some kind of crepe and when I cut into it, it just dissolved into a pile of threads. I used a yard of white handkerchief linen that had been sitting in stash for years, because I'm never going to make a white blouse that will stay white 3 hours into its first wearing.

The last - and worst - complication was that I'd originally planned to embroider the 1946 wedding date by hand. I drew the numbers very carefully with one of those blue washable markets, which I had used recently on the pillows I'd made from another gown. I embroidered 2 pieces, didn't like the look of it, picked out the embroidery and rinsed the satin so I could use my embroidery machine, and while the blue rinsed out, it also took some of the age/stain color of the satin, leaving me with bright, ghostly white numbers that would not fade. I had to cut 13 more pouch fronts.

Consider, if you will, the tantrum. I knew that marker could sometimes stain. I didn't think it could remove color.

Anyway, they're done, they're pressed, they look lovely, and thety're being picked up tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

And it's done

The book. And the author. 

Okay, so it's not quite done. I still have to listen to the computer read it to me, and I have to send advance copies to a few trusted readers/friends to find all the typos hiding on plain sight that I'm no longer capable of seeing, but that's minor stuff, really. 

The words and the big edit are over. It's a book now. Champagne has been drunk, notes for that book cleared off my phone, desk tidied. Nap taken. Long walk taken. Another nap. 

A brief rest (otherwise known as a custom sewing project) and onward.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Who is that?

Have you ever stumbled across an old photo and not recognized yourself? Whether it's such an old picture or simply because it doesn't match the picture you have in your head?

That happened to me this week. I was rummaging around on my computer, trying to find a photo from a trip years ago. A friend recently lost her dog, and I remembered that I had taken pictures of him when we visited her. So I tried to find them. No luck, but in a folder randomly marked random, I found myself. 

None of these pictures were ancient - no childhood or high school, not even my twenties - but they were so different from the image I had of myself at that time that they might as well have been of another person entirely. 

The photo here is me with several other members of the University City Garden Club, taken just a few years after I moved to West Philly. So, approximately 2003, the year before I met my husband. I was 39. I remember thinking I looked older. I thought I was overweight. I had various other criticisms that I thought were valid. 

Looking at it now, I realize that I looked like a freaking 12 year old. Maybe 16. Okay, 20. My skin was good, my boobs were higher, and if there was a little softness around my middle, it was offset by everything else I had going for me at the time. None of which I saw. 

Between modern standards of beauty that we take on board when we're too young to know better, criticism - well-meaning or not - dealt out over years, and our natural tendency to be harder on ourselves than we would be on anyone else we cared about, I don't think there's a woman alive so at one point or another who hasn't had an entirely unrealistic view of herself. 

Generally we look way better than we think we do.

This somewhat out of body experience has made me take a look at myself now. Not necessarily in the mirror. (Those are still not my favorite things.) But maybe, at 60, I don't look like I'm 70. Maybe my skin isn't that bad or that wrinkled. Maybe I'm not as chunky as I think I am - and even if I am, my body still does everything I need it to do without much complaint, and in the long run that is what's most important. 

Have you ever had an experience like that, seeing yourself in an old photo and not seeing yourself at all?

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Author Life

Not a lot of time this week for a proper post (edits, craft shows) but I wanted to share an Amazon review I got the other day on Coming Apart, the first book in my Ava & Claire series. 

It was a one-star review, but not the worst thing that could have happened. First off, it proves that people night want content warnings, but they don't always read them. Second, a negative review like this is actually helpful - it warns like-minded readers that they won't enjoy the book, and gives others a heads up that they will.

One of the things I love about historical fiction is that it shows how little people have changed - customs and costumes, but not in our essentials. Also, in every era there are "hot topics" which done people don't want to talkb it read about. 

"I know things happened back then, but I was not expecting to read about it." 

Interestingly, I've gotten messages from other readers who had similar feelings as the reviewer but who said the books made them think, and while they hadn't necessarily changed their minds, they had more empathy for people in difficult situations than they did prior to reading.