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Feeling a little overfed today? Have another slice of pecan pie and enjoy a bit of surfing. Here’s our bi-weekly roundup of interesting goings-on from the personal blogs of Creative Construction community members:

  1. Christa Miller is making a big change.
  2. Liz Hum regretfully abandoned NaNoWriMo. She also turned 30. Happy Birthday, Liz!
  3. Susanne Fritzsche reflected on the 18 different women inside of her.
  4. Kelly Warren is thankful for the little things, including fallen cake.
  5. Emma-Jane Rosenberg celebrated 11 years of marriage.
  6. Lisa Damian checked on her list of things to do before dying.
  7. Benita Larsson posted very cozy pictures of her snowy street in Sweden.

Enjoy the long weekend, if you’ve got one!


Wonderful wishes to all who celebrate Thanksgiving today.
May your holiday be full of love, laughter, and lots of good food.


11/26 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

A few lovely “silver” pieces for this week’s creativity contest prompt. Our winner is Karen Winters. Karen writes: “When I really want to challenge myself to paint something in a realistic style, I often select a still life that includes a piece of silver or glass. We only know that something is shiny metal by the presence of reflections. And those reflections require us to look deeper and to notice the subtle color and value changes that lie in the peaks and valleys of the intricate surface. What makes an exercise like this so valuable is the process of close observation, a practice that borders on a meditative experience, and can carry over to other things that we paint as well.” Beautiful work, Karen. Your $10 gift certificate is on its way.



From Cathy Coley: “i had no ideas, except for something vague and rather cliche having to do with the moon. then this:”

This morning, he announces,
“Mom! It’s snowing!”
just after six am.
I roll over in the dark,
see the sky slowly
rising from dark to silver.
Silver drops float, barely visible.

For the bus’s arrival, he is waiting
humming with excitement
over this small miracle,
yet the ground is only glazed
by cold rain.


From Cathy Jennings, a magical image:



From me (Miranda): I had ideas about what to create for this prompt, but as the time slipped away, I settled for photographing one of my favorite possessions — my silver charm bracelet. Each one of the bracelet’s charms represents something — there’s one for each of my children and my husband, as well as reminders of my creative self: a pen, and a cup of paintbrushes. Wearing this bracelet always lifts my spirits (maybe that’s because it jingles softly when I move?)



This week’s prompt: “Thanksgiving”

Use the prompt however you like — literally, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to by 10:00 p.m. eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, December 2. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) All submissions are acknowledged when received; if you do not receive e-mail confirmation of receipt within 24 hours, please post a comment here. Remember, the point here is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.

Balancing work and motherhood

heatherIf you haven’t discovered Momversation, hop on over and join the fun. This site features slick video conversations — and a lot of laughs — with notable women from the blogoshpere. Don’t miss Heather Armstrong from lead a video discussion on the perils of navigating work and family life. [Note that the image to the right is not embedded video; you'll need to click the link above in order to watch the video.]

You might also enjoy the video conversations on surviving the holiday season and how to deal with family members of a different political persuasion, among others.

Heather Armstrong’s blog,, is an internet phenomenon, as reported by the New York Times. Heather has just announced that she’s pregnant with her second child. If you’re not yet familar with Heather’s no-holds-barred blogging style — even when it costs her sponsors — you’re in for a treat.

Cathy: Room of one’s own?

Lately we have had a few posts here addressing the issue of creative moms having a space to be creative. One where no one else gets into our stuff; one where no one else’s stuff piles into our stuff; a computer, or a desk or a room of one’s own where we can have some clear head space, a view, and the ability to be in a creative mood or mind without interference.

I reluctantly share my writing PC with my children for homework and personal projects. The eldest, K prefers burning CDs to his MP3 while checking his email while making surreptitious maneuvers around parental controls to view videos and play internet games his brother should definitely not be looking over the shoulder to see. However, in general, though he may break my rules, I’ve made him good and paranoid of internet predators, so he’s not up to anything that will get him into any trouble other than with me. He also happens to be working on a couple of novels, albeit a lot bloodier than mine and full of fantasy genre: lone wolf types fighting their way through a world of evil. The second born prodigy, er I mean progeny (right, ma) is obsessed with Windows Movie Maker and typing up titles and credits to his films. He sneaks watching videos on youtube, too, but he’s easier to catch.

I also share my office with my mother-in-law, retired, who really likes computer games. We sit here much of the day together, especially when the boys are in school. Sometimes I am distracted in conversation with her, because I’m trying to write, sometimes, the conversation is just what’s needed. There are many writing rituals I used to do that I’ve given up with her presence: the sing-song reading aloud, the general weird noises and seat dancing, music playing, etc. Just weird writer things, like saying LA-LA-LA-LA-LA while I’m not really sure if the part I’m trying to write makes any sense, but I’m writing it anyway, for now. There’s also the time I tried bouncing a writing dilemma off of her and she was looking at me very strangely. Did I mention she is a retired accountant? She disproves my old theory that all avid readers are writers at heart.

It’s a decent sized room, but there’s a lot of furniture crammed in here, including a full-sized guest bed. Oh and I didn’t mention what I usually mention: the fact that while I’m trying to write, I have squirming, nursing or sleeping baby on my lap.

Today, my husband asked to move in, too. We broke out the tape measure, and technically, we can make it work, but aren’t doing well on agreeing about how. He wants to share the desk. I am going to go wicked eighties for a sec here, but I’m like, totally no way! It’s bad enough with the kids and me. His paper problem is much worse than mine. And mine is admittedly bad. I suggested he bring in the hunk of kitchen counter that’s still in the garage from when we removed it from the kitchen 18 months ago. With some maneuvering of a giant file cabinet and my desk, it’ll be tight, but it’ll work.

It’s really the least I can do. Of course I’ll be more inconvenienced than I am already. I already feel boxed into a corner. But the guy has been a real trooper. He took care of me and my kids from marriage number one, when I was a pain in the butt bedrest preggo for a very long time. He also provides for an increasingly large household through not just a day job, but side jobs. Until we make room for him in here, he wanders the house for an open corner of kitchen counter with stool, the dining room table after dinner and dishes are done. Sometimes I can hear the hum and click of his laptop at two in the morning, when he has to get up and do it all over again in about four hours. The very least I can do is squeeze him in next to me in here. Hey, maybe we’ll even end up spending more time together.

So, room of one’s own? I doubt it’ll be possible until, ah, shucks, I don’t have the foggiest idea! My youngest won’t graduate high school til I’m 60. Even though I do not want to live through another pregnancy like hers, I can’t help having that ‘what if’ in the back of my mind. After all, my late father-in-law still doesn’t have a grandson to carry on the name.

Notes from a Crone: Rock-Seeing

[Editor's note: "Notes from a Crone" is an occasional Creative Construction series written by artist and artisan Juliet Bell. Juliet reflects on living a creative life after one's children are long grown -- with inspiration and wisdom for women at every waypoint along the spectrum of motherhood and creativity.]

rock-seeing-1I thought I would share with you a tool I learned years ago for tapping into the subconscious. I have used this method to resolve creative roadblocks, especially writer’s block — working out plots, and the like, and for quieting those deadly fears that rise occasionally, threatening to snuff out the flame of inspiration. There is no end to the ways this tool can be put to good creative use.

Back in the 80s I attended a weekend workshop on shamanism. It was led by Michael Harner, whose book The Way of the Shaman I had read years earlier. When I saw in the paper that he was offering a workshop in Boston, I jumped at it. It was a profound and life-changing event.  The many “coincidences” and synchronistic happenings that occurred over those two days still weave through my consciousness today.

Over those two days, we explored many tools for seeking answers to questions. Here is one which is particularly delightful, fun, easy to do, and a great one for sharing with children. It is described in Harner’s book mentioned above. He refers to it as rock-seeing, and was taught the method by a Lakota Sioux medicine man.

First one poses a question to oneself for which one seeks answers. Then you take a walk. Your goal is to come across a grapefruit-sized stone that draws your attention. (We were asked to come to the workshop already having found our stone.) You then find a comfortable place to sit, place the rock in front of you, and pose the question to the rock. Then examine it carefully. As you do, you will begin to see shapes, little creatures, living things, symbols, animals and such, in the crevasses, markings, pits and shadings of the stone. Make note of them, and then examine the other side. Once you feel you have seen everything, begin to work out what these things mean, how they fit together, and how they address your question. When you have found your answer, you return the rock to its original location and thank it for giving you guidance.

rock-seeing-2This can also be done in pairs, where you both examine the stone, and work together to find the meaning of what you see. At the workshop we were paired up. As my partner and I took turns posing our questions, we were not only blown away with the answers that were held in our stone (our subconscious), but by the interesting “coincidence” of our pairing. I was beginning the search for my birth mother and was seeking answers as to my motives, and he, with his wife, was beginning the process of adopting an older child and was seeking information about that journey. How weird is that?

You may find as I do that when you are searching for your rock, you will find many that in themselves take on the shape of animals and other living things. This can become a game in itself. Like looking at clouds or at the cracks in an old ceiling, one sees all kinds of shapes. This is great fun to do with children, though it does tend to slow the walk down a bit. The other day I found a perfect profile of a dog, a ewe’s head, and a little stone etched with a Ninja warrior, carrying sword and shield.

Happy rock-seeing!

For more information, visit the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, founded by Michael Harner.

Breakfast with Anne

Breakfast time! Back to the UK we go. Brew a fresh cup of tea and meet Anne Pettigrew, mother, knitter, spinner, designer, teacher, and blogger. And she’s a friend of Emma-Jane Rosenberg‘s, so you already know Anne is one of those cool creative types that you want to hang out with. (One lump, or two?)

01headshotCC: Please give us an intro to who you are, what you do, and your family headcount.
I’m Anne, married to John, with two children, Adam (6) and Ruth (4). I teach maths part-time at one of the local sixth form colleges.

CC: Tell us about your knitting and other creative work.
Since rediscovering knitting (sometime around the end of 2004) I have had at least one, usually more, knitting projects on the go. Prior to that I stalled (for 20 years) on a sweater knitted entirely in moss stitch using fingering weight yarn. Ripping it out and rejecting project monogamy was immensely liberating. I longed to learn to spin for years — it’s a kind of magic to convert fluffy stuff into yarn which has strength and purpose. I had the chance to learn at the SkipNorth retreat in March 2007, and although I don’t do as much as I would like, I did make a cardigan from my own handspun. I have also started crocheting.

13daisiesCC: What prompted you to start a blog? What keeps you going?
I started reading other people’s blogs and, having scoffed at my husband for writing one, realized that I could have one of my own. I love having a space which is mine. I can write about whatever I choose to write about, so long as I remember that ANYONE could be reading it. As for what keeps me going — being able to “blog without obligation.” I generally post very infrequently now, although I am attempting NaBloPoMo — posting every day for the whole of November. It’s been hard to start with, but the discipline of having to write something every day is making me consider everything as potential blog-fodder, which is making me more reflective generally.

05whereiknitCC: Where do you do your creative work?
Mostly I knit or crochet sitting on the sofa, while watching television at the end of the day. This photo shows the clutter I cannot keep under control.

CC: Do you have a schedule for your creative work?
Not really — I feel guilty when I do any during the day, as there is always a huge list of things I should be doing.

07bakingCC: How has motherhood changed you creatively?
I didn’t really knit until after my children arrived. I like making things for them (partly because small things knit up faster), but I think that the day-to-day tasks of being a parent call for a lot of creativity. When a little girl arrives home from her grandparents and announces that “It’s not FAIR. I wanted to play a game, but there wasn’t time. And I’ve never been on a sleepover. And I’ve never been on an airplane. It’s NOT FAIR!” it’s probably not the time to reason with her, it’s time to coax her through to the kitchen to nibble bits off the chopping board as we finish preparing dinner together.

I love doing creative things with them, although I find it hard not to act as a total control-freak. Letting go and letting them make a mess doesn’t come easily. We do do a range of things together though — from making stained-glass windows using tissue paper, to baking, to finger knitting…

06stainedglassCC: What do you struggle with most?
I find the day-to-day things hardest. Adam and I are both celiac, which means that I pretty much do have to cook from scratch every day. (I know that’s good practice anyway, and yes, we do have a couple of gluten-free ready meals in the freezer for days when it all falls apart.) When things are going well I love menu planning, and I enjoy cooking. But whereas the creativity needed for knitting isn’t essential (I don’t *have* to knit, I just enjoy it), we do need to eat, and finding the inspiration for a nutritious balanced dinner after a long day at work when I’m getting a migraine and my back is playing up can be a distinct challenge.

03shawlFrom a fibrey perspective I think I find it hardest to stick with each project to the end. Partly this is because I get seduced by new patterns and yarns which cry out to be tried, but I also generally find finishing a garment rather disheartening. Until that point I view my project as the Platonic ideal. Once all the seaming is done (and I do enjoy seaming — mattress stitch is another kind of magic) all the flaws are revealed — the bumpy seams, the uneven tension, that point where the stripes don’t quite meet up… and I often lose the love I’d been feeling.

CC: Where do you find inspiration?
Ravelry! I try not to spend too much time idly pattern browsing (see above — they’re too seductive). I think I feel slightly guilty about process knitting. I should be aiming at a product, my hobby should be producing something beneficial. (Or at least, this is how I feel.) So I try to start by thinking about what would be useful, and either find a pattern which satisfies it, or design something appropriate.

12surpriseCC: What are your top 5 favorite blogs?
Oooh — only 5? I think I’ll go with Yarn Harlot, Dooce, The Sartorialist, Bad Science, and What Housework?

CC: Just for you: What is your greatest indulgence?
A long hot soak in the bath with a good book.

CC: What are you reading right now?
The Problems of Mathematics by Ian Stewart.

08fingerknittingCC: What advice would you offer to other mothers struggling to find the time and means to be more creative?
Take the moments when you can. Recognize the creativity you are using for everything you do, and remember that the “tiny baby” stage doesn’t last forever. If you feel that your creativity has left you, don’t worry, it hasn’t, it’s just being channeled very differently for a while.

CC: Thanks, Anne!

Judge a book by its cover

judgebyNot that any of us needs another way to waste time online (ahem), but I can’t help but share Judge By. Go to the site and you’ll see a random book cover from Guess how good you think the book is, based on its cover. After you click your assessment, you’ll see what Amazon reviewers actually rated it. You can also click through to the book on Amazon, in the event that you stumble across something interesting. Quite addictive…

Kerry: When the magic went away

I was arguing with my beloved the other day about time (my good, old, elusive friend time) and how when my beloved “gives” me time, I use it to clean, because I don’t want to live in a pigsty. But he’s right, it is my choice. And I threw out some comment about the bathrooms not magically cleaning themselves. Oh how I wish they did, but they don’t. Anyway, I got to thinking, playing around with that idea really, and wondered if my family would have any sympathy for me if the magic went away. Really, as usual I’m feeling under appreciated and overworked. But hey, for the first time ever, I got both babies to take naps in their beds at the same time…right now. Wonder if that has anything to do with my beloved not being here to help. (He’s working overtime this week for Christmas money.) So, here is a creative burp, a little piece of my cynical sarcasm come to life before my eyes.

When the magic went away

I had grown so accustomed to the little fellas taking care of things, imagine my shock and dismay when I found the letter of resignation folded neatly and taped to the bathroom mirror. “Dear mistress of the manor,” it began.

We are sorry for any inconvenience, but we feel stifled in our current position of scrubbing toilets and bathtubs. Lately we are feeling under appreciated for our efforts and feel the distant calling of the warm sun and the gentle surf. We have mutually decided to permanently vacation on the beaches of Mexico.

Good luck with the house.


Ipsy, Twint, Spirap and Jaffer  (Those are not our real names of course, but will do for these purposes.)

Hmmm…what business did four little house elves have sipping margaritas on the coast of Mexico? Didn’t I take care of them? I left out little goodies and saucers of milk which they claimed was their favorite. I hand stitched them little clothes in the latest elfin fashions. Now what would I do? I felt overwhelmed and dismayed.

Where could I find more magical elves? Was there some sort of directory? And, God forbid, what if the tiny ladies who folded all of the laundry and put it neatly away decided to follow their muses and head off to New York to become famous artists? This was out of control.

I sunk down to my knees and began to sob. Would the terrible turmoils of being a house wife and stay at home mom never end? I suppose there was still a bright side…somewhere. I still had the invisible nannies to rock the babies back to sleep in the middle of the night. Unless of course they deserted me too…to become groupies to some hot, young band who played only for the ears of invisible maidens.

When I signed on for this, nobody told me this could happen. I read the fine print in the contract for housewives and there was definitely nothing in there about desertion. Did the little buggers have a right to leave? I’d always assumed they’d be there to take care of things. What were my rights in all of this? Could I sue? Was there some kind of fairy tale lawyer I could call? Sure, in that same directory with the elves for hire. Right.

And my family wonders why I get so cranky.

Kelly: Someday WAS Today

Yes, Miranda, someday WAS today. But first let me back up a moment to give you a little perspective why today became so important.

Saturday morning as I was driving around the block three times near Garnet and Gold in Tallahassee trying to find a place to park so I could pick up a new t-shirt for the FSU Homecoming game that night, I got a call from my best friend, Becky. Becky and I have been friends since 9th grade English with Mr. McDonald. We sat behind Wally Rakestraw and both had a crush him (on which Becky’s brother Robert commented at Becky’s wedding rehearsal: “Wally Rakestraw!!?? Damn you girls for always going for the jocks!”). Becky and I went through high school and college together, became sorority sisters in college, and are still best friends 20 years out of college. When she called that morning, she said, “Well maybe I shouldn’t tell you this right now since you are driving.” With a comment like that, now you know I really had to know, so she told me.

At 9 pm the night before, one of our sorority sisters in Tampa had a knock on her front door. It was a State Trooper. Her daughter, her 17-year-old daughter on her first trip away from home without her parents, had just been killed in a car accident. She was on her way to Tallahassee with three friends for the very same game that prompted my t-shirt search; the other three girls survived the crash but were in ICU. I pulled into a random parking lot and just stopped. What do you do in that moment? What can you possibly say? No words seem to fit. All I wanted to do was hang up the phone and call my own children at home, just to hear their voices. I cannot imagine the devastation our friend’s family must be feeling. My heart and prayers go out to them.

Which brings me back to the importance of today…. That moment crystallized for me that someday truly is today, and that you never know what that someday, this today, that tomorrow is going to bring you. And for that reason, I realized that every moment, big or small, must be cherished. Today was one of those moments. It was the day that all the kindergarten parents were invited to come to school and have a Thanksgiving lunch with their children. Before Saturday morning, I hadn’t really thought about going. Work is very hectic right now, and I have to travel to Orlando tomorrow and Friday for a meeting. But I went. And as I walked down the hall to the cafeteria, Olivia spotted me and yelled “Hey, there’s my Mama!” to all her friends. When I got in there, I saw that Sarah was still in line and hadn’t spotted me yet, so I told Liv to find us a seat and got in line. I saw Sarah walk out of the serving area with her little tray in her little hands, looking so smart and so grown up, and my eyes filled up with tears. When she saw me, she almost dropped her tray and yelled, “Hey, Mama!” So we sat down. And we ate. We ate terrible elementary school cafeteria turkey and dressing, box mashed potatoes and pre-packaged fruit cocktail. But it was one of those little moments to cherish. It was the day that someday did become today. It was the start of a lot of somedays that will become todays. When will your somedays become today?

11/19 Weekly creativity contest winner & new prompt

Lots of layers for this week’s creativity contest prompt, “quilt.” So wrap yourself up and have a cozy read. Our winner is Cathy Coley, who wrote a personal essay with unfettered honesty. Congratulations, Cathy (defending champion!). Your $10 gift certificate has been issued.


Quilts are heavy. I love sleeping under them, but for me they are weighted by memories of grief and struggle. One person comes to mind whenever I see a quilt because she was an award-winning master quilter and my late former mother-in-law. Her death is still the most visceral for me, and her son gave me a life’s worth of hope and potential, but ultimately we divorced.

She was a woman whose heart was big enough to fight for a little boy who was born into unimaginable neglect at a time when her marriage was dissolving. She fought to adopt a foster child who was slated to be reunited with the parents who had several children removed from their care because of their inability to cope due to severe alcoholism. At the time, the presiding policy was shifting to try to keep families together against the odds of betterment for the children involved. She went to court and succeeded in her bid to adopt the boy she had been caring for determinedly for three years, and who had begun to thrive.

When our wedding approached, she sat me down and asked me point blank if I was ready for this. If I was going to be able to handle all that may come up for him because of his rough origin. At the time I assured her I could love him enough, no matter what, I could be there to take care of him. I had already for two years, and had been very aware, or so I thought, of the depths of his despair and needs. Aren’t we all a little more optimistic about the powers of love in our mid-twenties? Don’t we all think if I can just love him enough, then all will be well? She promised us a wedding quilt, but was still working on it by the time we were wed, and honeymooning in her cottage on a lake in Maine.

Her father’s many acres of land were a generational home we would eventually take our boys to for summer vacations. She and her brother had grown up romping along the lake, her children and his, and then ours did the same. In the October of our honeymoon, the lake reflected the most glorious patchwork of changing tree colors, filling the spectrum from brightest yellows thru golds, bright and deep oranges and reds, even hues of burgundy and plum. The loons’ mournful cry echoed the sentiment of earth’s shutting down for the winter, across the lake. When the quilt arrived a few months after we were married, it was unusual and beautiful – a Japanese window pane pattern in red, beige, pine greens with strong geometric bands of black giving a three-dimensional effect. The only request I gave her for it was to please use strong colors rather than pastels. I didn’t know of her particular talent and skill in that gift of her hands until I opened it and marveled at each tiny stitch, under an eighth of an inch, precisely and lovingly stitched. Later, she would quilt a baby’s quilt for my oldest son. He was nineteen months when she passed.

By then, she was already twice through battles with breast cancer, to which she eventually succumbed. She flew us down to Florida in her final days. In her house were several examples of her handiwork: a beautiful throw on the sofa, a decorative element on a marble table, a back room with bits and parts of progress, shelves of colors waiting to be sewn, paper plans, wooden rings, loose and taught with fabric. Each piece finished and unfinished was museum quality.

Her son was unable to cope with the loss of someone he always credited for saving his life. The sight of her in such a depleted state was unbearable for her multiple stroked second husband; for her mother, aged ninety, who had had quadruple bypass surgery months before our wedding, and made it from south Florida to the wedding in Boston a few years before; and too much especially for her youngest son.

I had a little remove from the situation, and so was left to care for the others. I won’t go into the excruciating details, but much was too much for me to bear as well. She had worked until the week before and was gone by the following. I was alone with her when she made the decision to die. She looked herself square in the eye in the bathroom mirror, as I bathed her after a traumatic incident. She looked at the state of her self, her family, and knew it was time. She could no longer care for everyone else, now she was unable to do the simplest tasks in self-care. She looked in the mirror and said, “So this is it.”

That afternoon, I watched by the window for the hospice worker’s arrival. I stopped her outside and said no one else in the house is capable of making this decision. I told the hospice worker that she was ready to go, but couldn’t as long as the others were with her. After a private discussion in the back room between them, arrangements were made, pieces were put in order, and she put her last stitches into the quilt that was her life, neatly, precisely, as in everything she did. We were put on a plane back to Boston while she went into hospice.

At her funeral the following week, so many women, quilters, came to us and spoke of her quilting with such reverence. They said it was a shame she couldn’t be at this last county quilt show. Her last piece was on prominent display, already the winner of the show’s competition, even before her death. They all insisted we should go see it. We arrived at the show, came around the corner. Displayed upon the first of many temporary panel walls, was the most beautiful quilt I have ever seen, even to this day. Not just because of the circumstances, it was genuinely the most exquisitely executed piece of art. A king-size traditional wedding ring quilt — a white background stitched intricately with millions upon millions of stitches, interlocked green rings in the foreground with perfectly puffed borders, meant to be given to the first grandchild to be married, on their wedding day.


From Juliet Bell: “I don’t suppose this qualifies as creative, unless you count the watercolor from which the squares are derived. But…I confess to a compulsive addiction to doing this, and the prompt set me to it again.” I’m pretty sure this qualifies as creative, Juliet!





From Jen Johnson: “I’m going to dust off an old piece to send for this week’s prompt, since it came immediately to mind. This one has actually appeared in print, in an earlier version (in Once Upon a Time, the magazine for children’s writers and illustrators). The file for this draft is dated 2003, before my kids had been born — interesting to look at it now, from the perspective of a mother, especially after making my son’s quilt. (Still working on one for my daughter!)” Jen also sent in a photo of the very first quilt she made: “Machine pieced and hand quilted, put together on a whim without a pattern. It hangs over our bed. (In earthquake country, it is a comfort to have something soft over your head as you go to sleep!) I was working on this at the time of writing my poem.”

The Poet Pieces for Cover

Day after day, the page remains as blank as a bedsheet,
so she puts aside the pen and selects a new between.*
She threads the needle — thinking of it as a dash
worthy of Dickinson —  and she muses upon her material:
a scrap of calico cut from her mother’s apron,
a seersucker square from her father’s summer suit,
a paisley print from her sister’s skirt,
a flannel plaid from her brother’s shirt,
silk velvet from her favorite dress,
the denim from a threadbare pair of jeans.
Several bolts of discount cotton and all manner
of misfits rescued from the remnant bin –
linens, cambrics, rayons, chambrays, corduroys,
damasks, jacquards, jerseys, woolens, organdies….
She takes whatever cloth she can get
and starts another crazy quilt.

There was a time when women did this
of necessity, re-used each scrap of fabric,
put the pieces together as best they could
because the pieces were all they had.
They called it piecing for cover, making blankets for the beds.
Winter was coming, and their children would be cold,
especially at night. They had little time for frivolous things,
no time for wishing that words would come
when they are called, as though words were
obedient children. Perhaps her words
are too well-behaved, she thinks,
for lately they are neither seen nor heard.
Perhaps she’s whipped them into silence
and is an unfit mother. They have taken
all her words away, swaddled babies
stolen from her grasping arms by a barren midwife
and left on some stranger’s stoop in late December.
She could sense their lexical shapes but nothing more
beneath the swaddling bands, yet she is sure
that she would know them if she saw them. She looks
for their faces in novels, in magazines, in skinny books of poetry.

Bending her head, she knots an end of thread and wets the tip
against her tongue, imagining her writer’s block
as an actual block of old fashioned ice –

enormous, opaque, surrounded by sawdust.
The dimples on the familiar thimble
reassure her nearly numbed thumb,
and she tells herself the block will melt.
It always does. Creativity is all about
entropy, and every thought will thaw
to the liquidity of language if given time.
And time she has. Words don’t grow up
and leave home. Her babies will be taken in and cared for
until she can bring all of them home.
and give each one a proper place to live.
For now, she makes a quilt, piecing for cover,
each patch a paragraph, each seam a sentence
in the archaic language of her ancestors’ needles.

* a “between” is a specific type of needle, often used for hand-quilting




From Brittany Vandeputte:

The quilt in the closet was given to my great-grandmother by her grandmother when she was born.
And now itʼs mine.
Blue pinwheels dance across bone white. Tiny pinprick stitches by my great-great-great grandmotherʼs hand.
How many times did the needle graze her finger, I wonder?
How many of her loose hairs were woven unseen among the thread?
What dreams did she dream for my great-grandmother as she sewed?
103 years of dreams.
And quilts
Of her very own.
The other quilt is Mamawʼs
Made especially for me.
She knew me well, my great-grandmother.
No staid blue pinwheels blowing across bone.
For me there are stars and flowers, pinks and purples and yellows.
A garden for me, made by her hands, pricked with her blood, tangled in her hair.
And full of dreams
For me.



From me (Miranda): When my firstborn son was about two years old, I made him a quilt. No pattern; I just made it — sewing machine for the piecing; hand tufting when it was all put together. While my quilting skills are entirely amateur (maybe “maverick” is a better word?) and I never did get the batting quite right, I did have a lot of fun in the process. I also included a few scraps of material that my mother had used in a quilt she made for me when I was a child, and I love that continuity. My son’s quilt is now faded, stained, and a little tired, as it’s seen a lot of use in the past 16 years. At some point I told myself that I’d make quilts for all of my kids, but I’ve never made another. Better put that on the “someday” list, with a few underlines. I’ve got a lot of work to do….




This week’s prompt: “Silver”

Use the prompt however you like — literally, or a tangential theme. All media are welcome. Please e-mail your entries to by 10:00 p.m. eastern time (GMT -5) on Tuesday, November 25. The winning entry receives a $10 gift certificate to Writers should include their submission directly in the body text of their e-mail. Visual artists and photographers should attach an image of their work as a jpeg. Enter as often as you like; multiple submissions for a single prompt are welcome. There is no limit to how many times you can win the weekly contest, either. (You do not have to be a contributor to this blog in order to enter. All are invited to participate.) All submissions are acknowledged when received; if you do not receive e-mail confirmation of receipt within 24 hours, please post a comment here. Remember, the point here is to stimulate your output, not to create a masterpiece. Keep the bar low and see what happens. Dusting off work you created previously is OK too. For more info, read the original contest blog post.

Weekly creativity contest reminder: Quilt

Don’t forget: tonight is the deadline for your “quilt” prompt entries!


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