Brandon Mull winked at me today (WIFYR day 1)

June 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm (Uncategorized)

Even before I started my job, I couldn’t wait for vacation. It’s not that I was anticipating getting bored at work; rather, I was thrilled to be involved in the 2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference. As the conference approached, though, I started to get nervous. Was I ready? Was my story ready? Would I have submissions read in time?

Imagine, then, what I felt when I stepped out of my car, looked east, and saw this:

To me, rays of light have always been more than simply beautiful. For one thing, I used to answer to the nickname “Rae,” so I’ve always identified with light peeking through the clouds. This picture, though, reminds me of Michelangelo: two years ago, I stood in a cathedral in Rome and looked on Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. Those of you who haven’t seen it, the statue has an interesting feature. Moses appears to have two horns coming out of his head. However, these aren’t “horns” in a devilish sense. Rather, they’re cones of light–Michelangelo’s interpretation of revelation coming to Moses.

Both are appropriate images for today. I’m trying to break through with my writing, and I’ve already been inspired: I’ve figured out major revisions for two of my current projects.

Of course, the picture doesn’t apply to everything. According to Toni, I am a daughter of Freya in a pseudo-Rick-Riordan-demigoddess kind of way. (And I apparently don’t get along with Thor, which I believe, especially because I felt like someone was hammering away at my head during lunch.) She is also supposedly my half-sister. Somehow. Ask her, not me. (I wonder if it’s because I told Dave Wolverton she and I were twins?)

(Oh, and don’t worry at me, Brandon Mull’s wink was totally innocent. I signaled to him that he had ten minutes of discussion time left, but he was in the middle of answering questions and couldn’t respond verbally. Hey, it got your attention though, right?)

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Descent into Madness

June 1, 2010 at 6:11 pm (Uncategorized)

The events which I am about to chronicle will further explain my post from yesterday.

Be warned. It’s nerdy.

And don’t forget to blame Toni Pilcher. (Among other things, she asked the Dreaded Question I alluded to in my previous post.)

It started in the middle of winter semester at BYU. My adorable little sister wanted me to knit her a scarf. Not just any scarf: a scarf in Ravenclaw colors that she could wear when she dresses up as Luna for Halloween and the Harry Potter premiere. (This was back before Harry Potter got moved back. Emily was furious that Eclipse delayed the release. She’s a good kid 🙂 )

I did what any good sister would do: I pulled out my color cards for yarn, let her choose which hues she liked, and got online in search of a good scarf pattern.

This is where it all went downhill.

I get all my patterns and project ideas from a website called ravelry.com. I’ve described it before as a facebook for knitters and crocheters. It’s a great place to network, find resources, and relax with people who share your passion for the fiber arts. If any place had a good scarf pattern, it would be rav.

My search was not in vain. I did indeed find a pattern. . . . and a whole lot more.

You see, when knitting, I don’t just see a pattern and start on it. I like to look at photos of finished objects that people have made from the same pattern. In the process of doing this for my sister’s scarf, I discovered something interesting of the avatars of many of the knitters: they all sported the anagram HPKCHC.

I was curious, so I did some research. Apparently, HPKCHC stands for Harry Potter Knitting and Crochet House Cup. Every four months, a group of knitters and crocheters on rav create their own House Cup. Everyone gets sorted, everyone can play Quidditch, and everyone can participate in classes, including the arduous OWL projects (which take three months instead of one). Every month, there are six different classes: the five core wizarding classes and one extra.

Sadly, I discovered the HPKCHC halfway through the last term, so I had to wait a month and a half to get sorted. Soon after colelge graduation, however, I received my OWL! I had been sorted into the noble house of Ravenclaw.

A month has passed. I completed all six of my classes and a third of my OWL, but not without some mishaps. For example, I almost exploded the microwave dying a bookscarf for my sister.

I didn't burn the microwave, Will's friends did that making popcorn. I did, however, cause the blue puddle.

Other endeavors were just as dangerous. While doing my Potions “homework,” I knocked my “telescope” into my “cauldron” and created a terrifying creature:

AUGH!

Thankfully, a good friend rescued me from it and has it in custody now.

Despite those mishaps, though, I’m excited for a new term in the HPKCHC! Wish me luck, and see you around rav!

~nightrae

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Ascension from Madness

May 31, 2010 at 4:39 pm (Uncategorized)

(Yes, I know the term is usually “descent into madness,” but as I completed my descent and am on my way back up, I feel that this title is far more appropriate.)

In the month since I last blogged, I’ve hit a number of milestones. Some of them were knitting-related: I knitted 2 shawls and a scarf for my grandmothers and mother for Mother’s Day; I knitted a scarf and some gloves (the latter of which I designed) for John’s birthday; and, despite all odds, I completed all 6 classes for ravelry.com’s HPKCHC! (If you don’t know what that is, that’s okay. I’ll blog about it if you’d like, but you ask at your own peril! 🙂 ).

However, the biggest milestone has been starting a new job. I’m a month into my internship at LDS church magazines, where I work for the Friend. I thoroughly enjoy it and am a little sad that it’s a quarter of the way over. So far, it has taught me several important things:

  • Never give up on your own voice.
    I spent the first two weeks at work trying to write according to the magazine’s style. One story in particular went through four revisions and still sounded terrible. (Luckily, my boss is patient with me.) I finally took the gloves off and wrote it how I wanted to write it. Little did I know that the story also wanted to be written that way, and now I’m actually proud of the piece.
  • Query letters matter.
    I used to hate query letters. As a writer, I loathed the idea of making myself bare on a page that someone else might never read. As an editor, I not only read query letters, I love them. The reasoning behind this might not apply to all publishing houses, but here it is: the Friend is very selective about its content. (Obviously, if you’ve ever read it.) Many of the writers who send in query letters do so in order to show that they know how to act in the market.
    Many of them, however, also show that they completely failed to read the submission guidelines. Many others prove that they haven’t done research because “send” their letters to editors who no longer work here.
    I used to think query letters were a little deal because editors only gave them a 5-second look-over. I realize now that those 5 seconds can be utterly fatal if used wrong.
  • Soft-serve frozen yogurt is *divine~*, unless it’s artificially fruit-flavored. Blech.
    Give me the chocolate stuff, though, and I’m perfectly happy!

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“Dying”: the great Food Coloring experiment

April 13, 2010 at 11:49 pm (knitting, yarn)

I’ve had three skeins of pastel blue sock yarn in my stash for as long as I’ve known about sock yarn (okay, that’s less than a year, but it still feels like a long time). I bought it because it was on sale, and the color was beautiful, and I really wanted some pretty, cheap sock yarn.

Weird as this looks, how else was I going to get three hanks dry?

Problem: I hate pastel colors. When I first got it, I started a pair of socks with it–that’s what you do with sock yarn–but was convinced I would never, ever wear those socks. I put the project in my WIP bin and never went back to it.

Solution: The other week, I wandered onto the tutorial page at knitty.com and became particularly fascinated with the dying section. My one dilemma was that I didn’t think I had yarn I could dye. Oh, wait, I did! I didn’t want to dish out cash for an acid dye, and I didn’t want my yarn to smell fruity because I dyed it with Kool Aid, so I went with food coloring.

Problem: I tried to dye all three skeins at once in a somewhat small bowl. I also used way too much dye in the first batch.

Good news: because there was so much yarn in the way, the dye only set in the section on top.

Bad news: I had to dye it again twice (this time with lighter colors) until I was happy. Thankfully, none of my roommates wanted the microwave!

A mandatory artsy picture of the yarn

In the end, I decided I was pretty darn happy with my yarn. It’s not the best dye job in the world–I think I need to wash it one more time before I make something out of it so that the color doesn’t bleed–but I think it turned out well, all things considered.

Two questions:

1) Any requests/ideas for my next dyeing project? I’d like to get some use out of the supplies I just invested in. Some dyers go for characters or settings, while others just mix colors, and I don’t know where to start!

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Confessions of an April Fool

April 1, 2010 at 11:54 am (Uncategorized)

I’m sure that, in the history of April Fool’s Day, tons of pranks have backfired. If you try to do something big, you risk having it blow up in your face.

But has anyone ever unwittingly pranked themselves?

Last night at YPublish, I realized that I hadn’t submitted anything to my fiction workshop today. Not only had I not submitted anything, I hadn’t written anything. I’d been revising Countdown for a full-novel workshop with my friends and decided I had a solution: I could send the first chapter of Countdown to my workshop and have a last set of eyes examine it. Brilliant!

Or so I thought.

Until I woke up today and found out that I had sent chapter two. And not just chapter two, a chapter two of a very old draft. A chapter two that I’d cut.

Despite that, I had an incredible workshop. It was interesting to hear what my peers thought of the world, from structure to characters. All in all, it wasn’t useless.

But I still feel like an April fool.

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The role of ritual in Art

March 26, 2010 at 11:48 am (Uncategorized)

My art projects almost always involve rituals. Before I write, I listen to a song that helps me capture the tone I want in my scene. When I bake, I sample the chocolate first. (I don’t want bad chocolate in my cookies!)

And when I knit, I conduct what I call “the squish test.” Here’s how to do it.

First, get your materials on hand—in this case, your intended ball of yarn. In theory, you can do this in the store, though some clerks don’t like you touching the merchandise. This isn’t a problem for me because I buy most of my yarn online.

Second, indulge your five senses. Enjoy the colors. Smell the yarn. Don’t taste it, that’s gross.

Third, and most important, squish. Use the yarn like a stress ball. Hug it to you. Tuck it under your chin. Roll it between your wrists. Squeeze it between your head and your shoulder.

This probably sounds—and looks—silly, but I never buy a new yarn line without conducting a squish test. Why bother? Let’s look at a box of yarn.

All this yarn is related: they're all different kinds of wool. The orange and white are highland wools of different sizes; the blue and black are same-weight merino, but the blue is treated to be machine-washable. The silver--the best yarn to practice the squish test on--is a laceweight merino/silk blend. Yum!

See the bright orange yarn? That’s fingering-weight highland wool, and I’m using it as an accent color for my new ski cap and hobo gloves. (The main yarn will be the same type but black). The squish test for this yarn focused on the wrists and the head. Holding the yarn against my head made my hair oily. (I have that problem with all wool; it’s not just this yarn). If I didn’t intend to shower after every outing where I wear this hat, that would be a problem. Playing with the yarn let me know how light and thin it is; it also isn’t scratchy against the sensitive undersides of my wrists.

Compare this to the white yarn. It’s the same highland wool as the orange, but the strands are more than four times thicker. The threads are heavier, which means projects will go faster, but I’ve found that the yarn is also more scratchy. I hate having this stuff on my neck! This isn’t a yarn that I would want to have next to my skin. (Luckily, I only use it for felted accessories.) The squish test cues me in to how to not use my yarn.

The squish test is all about finding out what does—and doesn’t—work. As an artist, I can’t imagine finishing a project only to find out that I’m incompatible with the media. I don’t make acrylic socks because they itch and they don’t wick sweat away from my skin. I handwrite stories instead of typing because technology is too distracting. These are unique to me, and I’ve figured them out by the squish test (or an equivalent).

In short, if you’re having trouble in your medium, experiment. Creating art is an art of its own. Do what you can to enjoy that process.

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Writing Response: character interview

March 24, 2010 at 3:31 pm (character, muse, writing, writing challenge)

Last week, my fellow blogger and fantasy writer Chersti discussed character development. While her post focused on Megan Whalen Turner’s book Queen of Attolia, Chersti brought up some neat ideas about character. My favorite was the idea of interviewing a character. In honor of that idea and a discussion I had with Chersti about muses, I would like to conduct an interview of my own, this time with my muse.

Dreishon: You need me?

Rachel: Yeah, c’mere. I want to interview you for my blog. But only if you promise to behave.

Dreishon: Meaning . . .

Rachel: No bashing on my other characters and no giving away spoilers.

Dreishon: shrugs Whatever.

Rachel: All right. To give my readers context, talk about your first appearance in my novel.

Dreishon: I save your useless protagonist from a moment of stupidity.

Rachel: Well, that was vague.

D:reishon You said no spoilers.

Rachel: facepalms Fine then. Talk about the first story you ever appeared in. The one that never got finished.

Dreishon: Which one are you thinking of? A character with my name showed up in one of your earliest stories. Very noble, very minor, very cliche. Didn’t he die to save the protagonist?

Rachel: Not that one. The group story.

Dreishon: Ah. The one you started in high school with your journalism friends. You decided to write a male character because you were in a group of girls. I seem to recall you writing in a girlfriend for me.

Rachel: Someone else’s character was making moves. I had to protect you. Talk about your character, not your old girlfriend.

Dreishon: I was the mentor in that story. You were the one who came up with the rules of magic, so I got to communicate them to the protagonist. hesitates

Rachel: What’s wrong?

Dreishon: You planned to kill me off at the end of that one, too.

Rachel: Moving on. Tell me about your family.

Dreishon: I can’t.

Rachel: frowning Why not?

Dreishon: Because it involves spoilers.

Rachel: Fine! I’ll ask more boring questions. What’s your favorite color?

Dreishon: Seriously?

Rachel: You’re the one who wouldn’t answer questions.

Dreishon: Red.

Rachel: That’s better. Talk to me about your favorite band.

Dreishon: You know I’m not overly fond of your music. It’s too noisy, too distracting, especially because most of it has lyrics and I can’t multitask as well as you. I don’t mind Yellowcard, though.

Rachel: What about your favorite books?

Dreishon: You haven’t read most of them. My father’s a historian, so I practically grew up in the library archives. You don’t have a long enough attention span to enjoy them, Rachel.

Rachel: Watch it. I’m writing those books.

Dreishon: I also like Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s original Dragonlance books. Fizban annoyed me at first, but after finding out he’s a god, I liked him a whole lot more.

Rachel: Dreis! I said no spoilers!

See what I have to put up with?

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Once a bridesmaid . . .

March 2, 2010 at 11:58 am (knitting, writing)

March 20 is the last day of winter, and even though March supposedly goes “in like a lion and out like a lamb,” I counted on the 20th being cold this year. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. I love the cold.

But when Cassie scheduled her wedding for the 20th and I chose a chiffon bridesmaid dress, I knew I was in trouble. How on Earth was I supposed to keep warm if I didn’t have a coat that matched my dress?

My initial response was pretty naive: no problem, I’ll make something to keep me warm. I hopped online and searched for a pattern.

When I came across MMario’s “Artemis” and “Queen of Heaven” shawls, I should have known I was in trouble.

But I bought the yarn. I eventually gave in and bought beads after I’d settled on “Queen of Heaven.” I had the needles, the row counter, and 32 hand-tied stitch markers made from scrap yarn. By some miracle, I finished the project three weeks before the wedding, even after it got moved up.

So what does this have to do with writing? Allow me to set up some visuals.

Astronomer's wrap, pre-blocking

This is what the shawl looked like fresh off the needles. The radiating pattern looks nice, but all the details are muddled. There’s not much of a chance for the beads to shine through.

After taking the shawl off the needles, I dunked it in a tub of tap water. (Wool creations must be bathed in order to make them behave.) I let the wool completely absorb the water, squished out some of the excess, and went to my room to block.

“Blocking” is what allows the pattern to “open up.” In short, it means saturating wool with water, then pinning the wool into a desired shape. Wool has a strong memory and will maintain its form from the skein if unblocked. Blocking, however, rewrites that memory.

The downside, of course, is that blocking takes up a massive amount of space. This

The Astronomer's Wrap in the process of taking over my bedroom floor

took up most of my bedroom floor and took an hour and a half to pin.

Why bother, then?

I’ve asked myself the same thing about revisions. I’m usually pretty happy when I finish a scene (though that may just be the elation of getting done). So why go through the agony of tweaking it?

The answer comes after perseverance. Just as I wouldn’t want to wear an unblocked shawl, I wouldn’t want an editor, to read an unpolished novel.

And who knows? Maybe someday, one of my books will be this beautiful:

The Astronomer's Wrap is more patient than I am

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Why “Wordknitter”?

February 19, 2010 at 8:51 am (Uncategorized)

Why, indeed, did I choose this theme for my new blog? I know themes are important for a blog–I started a different blog a year ago, but it’s defunct now, mostly for lack of a unifying theme–but why this idea? And why start a blog now? Part of me just wants to jump back on the blogging bandwagon, but I’d like to think I have another motive.

As a college student, I struggle to organize my time. Between work, classes, club commitments, critique groups, and my latest knitting or writing project, I never quite feel like I’m getting enough done.

Of course, two of these overlap: my knitting and my creative writing. Both are coping mechanisms. Both are artistic.

And both are incredibly distracting!

Thus I dedicate my new blog to bringing my favorite distractions together, to proving that I really can knit words.

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