Right now I'm waiting to get notes back from my editor at HarperCollins. It's nerve-wracking business, this waiting. I've decided I'm not very good at just chilling while someone else reads my manuscript. I'm sizzling with nervous energy, checking my email every little bit, anxious to get on with the next part, the next step of this process. I am so eager to revise my book under my editor's care, just to see it become better and stronger and worthy of what I feel is the incredible honor that's been bestowed on me. I want to work!

Next week I'm teaching revision strategies to my creative writing students at Pepperdine. That's where I try to show them how much fun the revision process can be, how cool it is to tinker and play with a story, to tear down and rebuild and reenvision everything. I show them a really early draft of a story I wrote a long time ago, and then the published version that was printed years later, and together we marvel at how far a story can come. And when I read that old story, I am always filled with a sense of awe and mystery of how the story shaped itself into something wonderful. I get excited with the sheer possibility of writing.

Here's what I hope from this process with Unearthly: I hope that I understand clearly what to do, and have the ability to do it, be it big changes or little ones. I hope that I will be able to fix it quickly, but thoroughly. Most of all I hope that what emerges is a rock-solid book, of course, something I will look back on with a sense of delight and amazement that such a thing could come from me. And that I'll be able to survive all the stretches of waiting that are before me in the next few years.

Yarn Skin Tones

Above, from the left, Red Heart Classic in Lt. Peach, Red Heart Super Saver in Aran, Buff, and Warm Brown, and Red Heart Classic in Mid Brown.

I'm always on the lookout for good yarn colors to use for my crochet dolls. I have used a lot of yarns over the years, and I do have some decided favorites. In worsted weight yarns for many years my favorite has been Red Heart Classic and Red Heart Super Saver. These are resilient, non-stretchy, inexpensive yarns that make a very strong and sturdy three dimensional fabric.

I would love to use natural fibers for my doll bodies, but when I do the stitches seem thin and the stuffing shows easily between the stitches. I've tried cotton, 100% wool, and wool blends, but none of them satisfy me like the acrylic Red Heart yarns. I've also tried the new 'soft' acrylic yarns, but again, I felt the stitches were thin and too much stuffing showed through.

Vanna's Choice yarn by Lionbrand is another good choice for doll bodies. It is slightly softer in feel than the Red Heart Yarns, and works up slightly smaller, but the stitches are firm and close up nicely. Beige and Honey are great body colors.

The toughest color to find is a pleasing light peach tone. Most are either too pink or too bright. The Red Hear yarn above is a little on the bright side, but it does make up to a cute doll . If you have any suggestions for good peach tones, please share them :-)

While waiting for some clear acrylic eyes to arrive from CR's Crafts, so I can paint my own eyes, I used the Aran body to create Cathay Rose, a little Asian girl. She is a Mini Free Spirit; her outfit is a modification of the nightgown pattern for her tunic, and the underwear pattern for her pants. I used a lovely Tencel/Wool blend yarn for her hair that is very shiny and very black.

Maybe you could think of other Nationalities to create for Mini Free Spirit :-)

And the title is. . . .

That's right folks, I now officially have a title for my book!

I seriously didn't work even half this hard to name my son. I've been up late nights staring up at the ceiling, pondering, rolling different words and phrases around in my mouth like hard candy, seeing how they taste. I've received so many great ideas from my friends, family, and students (thanks, everybody, for your awesome possibilities!) and scoured the pages of my book looking for it to be hiding in there somewhere. And guess what? It was! This title jumped off the page at us from a list of words and phrases I found in the book during my last pass at revision. And the amazing people at HarperCollins agreed (unanimously, even!) that this is the one.

So the title is. . .


What I love is the sense of mystery and possibility in this simple word, and how it operates on so many levels that speak to not only the arc of Clara's story, but the world she comes to know.

Yay! So glad that it's settled! So excited thinking about this word on the cover of MY book. (And now, we do the dance of joy!)

Ahem. Now, back to work.

Stephanie Meyer and Pudding on the Brain

Tis the season for Twilight. I realized this in Nordstrom's, where I was perusing the makeup counters and came across the new Twilight lip gloss: Venom. It's this strange mix like those science experiments in grade school where you put oil and water in a 2 liter soda bottle with a little food coloring and spend hours shaking it up and watching it separate. With Venom, it's a clear substance and a dark red stuff churning around in a tiny $16 container. The clear stuff is a gloss with a plumper in it, which tastes like cinnamon and is supposed to irritate your lips enough to swell. The red stuff is meant to stain your mouth the color of blood. And in the five minutes I was standing there, the clerk sold three vials.

Twilight lip gloss, people. A sign of the apocalypse? :) I can't help but wonder if Stephanie Meyer thinks it's absolutely bonkers too. I've been thinking a lot about Stephanie Meyer lately. I remember her in those earlier interviews, where she was just aglow with the excitement of it all. She was having dinner with her characters, in costume! She was sitting on a movie set while they shot the meadow scene! Could a writer's life get better than that?! And last week I saw her on Oprah and she looked. . . strained. And I wondered, have we crossed the threshold where everything's gone from really super cool for her to where it's just totally insane?

Lately I've seen a lot of attacks on Stephanie Meyer and the Twilight saga. I can't cruise around Facebook without seeing some comment about how lame Twilight is and how stumped people are (especially other writers) by its success. Some of this I rack up to the anti-mob mentality. In order to feel like they are true individuals with good taste, many people will staunchly oppose the "it" thing. Titanic. Harry Potter. Twilight. And there's something to that, I suppose. I cried like a baby at Titanic, but even I was ready to chuck my radio out the window when "My Heart Will Go On" came on for the umpteenth time every hour. There's such a thing as death by overexposure.

Like most "it" things, I came to Twilight late. I'd heard of it. But I was busy. I only started to pay better attention when the movie came out. I love movies. And I love vampires. I am a Buffy fan to the core, and a big fan of Sookie Stackhouse to boot. So I rented Twilight the weekend it came to DVD. The first thing I remember thinking about it was that I would have LOVED it when I was sixteen. I would have been writing fan-fic about Bella and Edward for sure. And at age 30, I still found it mysteriously compelling.

So I went off to Barnes and Noble and bought the book. Then went back that afternoon to get Book 2. And the next day to get 3 and 4, which I read in less than 48 hours. After I finished the series, I sat down, stared at the mound of books on my desk and thought, I could do better. Now I have to laugh at the outright arrogance of this assumption, but my novel hadn't come to me yet. I wasn't thinking in specific terms. I was just thinking that I was a writer, a practiced, educated writer, and I could write something better. I could immediately see Meyer's flaws. The books seemed to me full of rookie mistakes, which makes total sense as Meyer never wrote so much as a short story before she came up with Twilight. I joked that if I had to read that Edward's voice was like velvet one more time I might have to choke somebody. I would have, in those days, completely agreed with Stephen King in his infamous interview last February (Meyer is a good storyteller, he claims, with something unique and compelling to offer her readers, but "can't write worth a darn.")

But that was BEFORE I wrote my novel. When my novel did come to me, not much later, Stephanie Meyer was constantly lingering in the back of my mind, and not simply because of her success, not because she supposedly sold Twilight for a $750,000 advance or made 52 million dollars last year or all the other things that make her the epitome of what it is to be a triumph as a YA writer. But because I knew more about her by then. She was a mother with small children. And one day she just started writing, not to become a gazillionaire or a world-famous author, but because she wanted to know how a story ended. And she wrote to find not only the story, but herself again.

I could relate.

And I was finding that being a good storyteller is a heck of a lot harder, in many, many ways, than being a good writer. I've always had a good ear for the language. But the story, the complexities of the characters, the way you have to keep all their threads untangled in your head, the way you must set them in tense, powerful moments that resonate with the reader and follow through with them, that, is really freaking hard. And with that kind of thing, the proof is in the pudding. And Stephanie Meyer is all pudding, no matter what you think of the writing itself. Her story speaks to people. That's undeniable.

When I find myself tempted to come to Stephanie Meyer's defense these days, I remind myself: pudding. The girl can take care of herself. So I'm content to simply cheer for her, to show solidarity for a fellow writer. And I try not to envy her for her incredible success. And I try to allow myself to dream of big things, because sometimes big things happen to unsuspecting people, and sometimes the little things can change absolutely everything. Sometimes the universe gives you a gift. A story. And it's worth it.

I know that even if my book doesn't make a dime, that's the case for me.

Good Thing Come in Small Packages

Of all types of dolls, small dolls are my favorites. The kind that fit snuggly in your hand; that you can put in your pocket or carry in their own little bag. Shortly after Free Spirit was born, I was thinking about making a mini version. Meet Jenny and Carina, the first Mini Free Spirits. She stands a little over seven inches tall, and is crocheted from worsted weight yarn.

I used Fibre Crafts 'Cindy' doll as the body model; there have been some really cute crochet patterns published for this doll, a couple of them are shown above. There are still a couple in print (unfortunately, the ones above are not). So, if you are fortunate enough to have collected some of these patterns, great! If not, I have several patterns for clothing for this new doll.

As I was making this doll, I got a bit carried away with accessories. The little bed is made from a broken picture frame, wooden spools, and some twigs from the back yard. The bench and chair are from a very old pattern for clothespin furniture, that has managed to stay with me through several moves. I did have to search frantically for it after our last move :-) The coverlet and afghan are block patterns from the book "200 Crochet Blocks" worked in sportweight yarn.

The patterns for the doll and clothing are located here and on the left sidebar:

Doll pattern: http://sites.google.com/site/designbybethann/home/links/FreeSpiritMiniDoll.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1

Nightgown: http://sites.google.com/site/designbybethann/home/links/FSMiniNightgown.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1

Underwear: http://sites.google.com/site/designbybethann/home/links/FSMiniPantaloons.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1

Dress and Sunsuit: http://sites.google.com/site/designbybethann/home/links/FSMiniSideToSideBodiceDress%26SunSuit.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1

Mohair Sweater: http://sites.google.com/site/designbybethann/home/links/FSMiniMohairSweater.pdf?attredirects=0&d=1

Below is Carina, in the dark braids, and Jenny, with the curly red hair. Carina is wearing a dress from the pattern that comes with the Cindy doll; made without any alterations :-) The Mini Free Spirit Doll pattern includes instructions for both hair styles below, plus several others that are very easy.

She works up faster than Free Spirit, and is just a lot of fun to make. I hope you enjoy her!

When every surface is covered....

I've been housecleaning. And as we all know, housecleaning if done right, can kill you. I take this very seriously. I don't want my epitaph to read "She was a fine housecleaner."

However, when nearly every flat surface in your home has a doll (or two or three) on it, action must be taken. Sadly, our walls are pretty full too. So, what do you do when you have more dolls that must be adequately displayed than there are places to display them? What I did was to remove most of the china from my china cabinet and turn it over to the Free Spirits :-)

What do you do? I'd love to know how you display dolls, and what you do with overcrowding conditions. Many of my dolls go to charity, or become gifts. How about you? Please share your ideas on how to display our lovely handwork.

As you can see, Gabrielle is right at home with the Blue Willow and her puppies :-)

Kitties for Adoption

Free to a good home! The Free Spirit girls are now awash in kitties, as well as puppies. The pattern for the above kitties is available here:


And also along the left side of the blog page along with the puppy patterns. The kitty body was interesting to work out. I was aiming for that prim look that cats and kittens all have, as they ponder what mayhem they can get into next (the trash can? the toilet paper role? Mom's yarn??) I hope you enjoy making these as much as Gabrielle, below, is enjoying her new pets.

By making some minor adjustments, other breeds can be created. A Scottish Fold would be easy by simply folding down the ear tips. A Devon or Cornish Rex by making the ears bigger (take a look at some pictures of these Cats...Wild!), and if you have the patience, a long haired kitty could be created by hooking strands of yarn around the body and head. Or, use a Mohair yarn and brush it. Lots of possibilities :-)

Well, its Time to do some serious housecleaning. If I survive, I hope to work out a 'mini' Free Spirit doll, still using worsted yarn and an E hook. Until then, enjoy the crochet!