June 06, 2009

Why I Love Quilting and Baseball posted by Leann Sweeney Putting two things together that one wouldn't ordinarily think belong in the same sentence, much less the same mind, is an exercise I sometimes do to jump start my writing and my brain. I like a challenge. Quilting and baseball, you say. Girl stuff and boy stuff, you mean? Not so. You might be asking, Then what the heck are you talking about, Leann? I will explain. Well, I'd go on anyway. I do have a blog to write. As a kid, I was never good at sports. But I discovered I loved to watch golf and hockey or to listen to or watch baseball games. At my grandparents house, the radio was always on and tuned to the White Sox or the Yankees. Arguments among family members about the games happened frequently and ended without malice. I liked that because the arguments between my parents about non-baseball things never ended without malice. They were ugly. Yup. I learned something about life from baseball--you can disagree without wanting to kill the person you disagree with. Quilting is a different story. I never learned or was encouraged to do any crafts aside from cutting out paperdolls as a child (and does that even count?). In fact, I was forbidden from using my mother's sewing machine. That means I used it when she was gone--until the night I put the needle right through my finger. And I mean all the way through. Needless to say, I decided I was being punished by God for disobeying my mother and was fearful of sewing machines for years to come. I have spent my life recovering from childhood fears and insecurities--yes even my fear of sewing machines. And so I learned how to quilt. Do you see where I'm going now? A Freudian would call this sublimation. A healthy defense mechanism rather than a phobia or an obsessive compulsive disorder or even drug or alcohol dependence. I took the good parts, the baseball games and my attraction to that damn sewing machine, and did not forget what those two things could offer me. A troubled childhood brought me much grist for the mill--in my writing, in my relationships and in my leisure time. Watching baseball keeps me connected to the extended family I left behind in western New York. I cannot think of many cousins or aunts or uncles who did not love the game. Part of me back in those days understood on an unconscious level that there were healthy people in my family--people who loved and laughed and got passionate without stepping over the line. They were normal, and I could be, too. That sewing machine wouldn't leave me alone, either, but it wasn't until I was in my thirties that I faced that demon. Could I really sew something without it involving sewing myself at the same time? When I learned that much of the machine sewing in quilting is in a straight line, I smiled and signed up for a class as fast I could. And I haven't looked back. No more evil forbidden sewing machine. It is my friend. But baseball and quilting have a few more things in common for me than you might realize. They both involve math. And even though I am pretty hardcore right brained, I do like most of the math that exists below calculus, so maybe they fulfill the math void. And both can be very complex. They make me think. For the sports and math haters I won't go into detail, but trust me, these are two complicated things, the baseball and the quilting. And even though I have been watching and listening to baseball all my life and quilting for nearly half my life, I am still learning. And I love to learn. The most important reason I love these two things is that both bring me so much happiness. I can escape into a game or into a quilt. They require the kind of concentration that takes me away and yet brings me home at the same time. I am all of who I am when I am watching a game screaming my head off at some stupid umpire or jumping out of my chair when someone hits a massive homerun to win a game. And I am all of who I am when I sit with fabric and scissors and thread, totally quiet, totally focused, totally in love with an art form that has lasted for centuries. Oh, and maybe I should have added writing to the loves. Because that is all of who I am, too.
My Life Has Revolved Around Books by Guest Blogger Mary Jane Maffini My life has always revolved around books. I have been a librarian, a reviewer, an editor, and now author of three mystery series and nearly two dozen short stories. But most of all, I have been a reader. I was reading -- as many of you were -- before I went to school. I've been caught up in a story on a bus and missed my stop by twenty miles. More than once, I've slipped away to finish a few paragraphs at what should have been a romantic moment. I was busy reading fiction when I should have been studying Physics, but never mind that. I once got so caught up in mystery reading that I bought a mystery bookstore with my friend! Books and reading: that's the story of my life. That is why Book Expo America felt so wonderful to me: like Christmas at the end of May, with a touch of Disneyland, and even a bit of Tooth Fairy sparkle. BEA is the Mecca of the North American book world and I got to attend in New York City this year. Was it worth the sixteen-hour round trip drive from Ottawa, Ontario? You betcha. My husband is also a reader, and he'll show you his six thousand books to prove it! We set off like a pair of eloping teenagers, heading for the Big Apple with a song in our greedy little book-lovin' hearts. But for me there was an added benefit. I was going to be signing my new book Death Loves a Messy Desk: a Charlotte Adams mystery at the Mystery Writers of America booth. The show itself was quite overwhelming. Somewhere around 1500 exhibitors, one thousand publishers, a crush of editors, sales reps, publicists, book packagers, agents, authors, illustrators, and in the case of my husband, guests. People jostle through crowds and line-ups snaked through corridors as signings take place. Of course, as an author, there were three kinds of folks I cared most about: book sellers, librarians and just plain readers. Oh all right, I have to admit, I get excited by authors too, but you probably guessed that already. The name tags and designations made great reading. Best of all, as I walked by some of these booths, people pressed things into my hot little hands. I came home with quite a haul. (Let's see if I survive Boomer Yoga!) But in the back of my mind was the worry: Would my two boxes of books sent by Berkley Prime Crime actually make it through chaos to the MWA booth and be found in time? (P.S. That's me in Grand Central Station, getting "sniffed" by the sniffer dog (who was accompanied by his human NYPD partner).) As we arrived breathless at the MWA booth, the redoubtable Margery Flax (and her team) had everything under control. Talk about organized! My professional organizer protagonist, Charlotte Adams, could take lessons from Margery. The books were stacked in an orderly fashion. The signing times was clearly posted. Each author had a name tent card. Water and soft drinks stood chilled and ready. I hovered as my friend Mary Stanton AKA Claudia Bishop got cleaned out of her new book Angel's Advocate. When my turn came, I was between Karen Olson and Toni Kelner. My red pen was ready, bookmarks stacked, lipstick reapplied, smile glued on. As we took our seats, my heart sank. No line-up! But as they say, if you build it, they will come. And come they did. We too were wiped out of books before we knew it. At the end, a lovely pair of booksellers from New Jersey arrived and there was a scramble to find one between them. As for Karen and Toni's latest books, I've already ordered those through my local Indie! In the end we staggered, tired but happy, onto the shuttle to our hotel, ready to look at our new finds and in my case, to remember the smiling faces of the hundred or so folks who walked away with signed copies of Death Loves a Messy Desk. They'll be new friends for me and for Charlotte Adams too, if all goes well. There's always talk that these huge book events are going the way of Tyrannosaurus Rex, stamped out by big box stores and the shift to online sales and e-books. In Canada, my beloved Book Expo Canada, which always had a terrific presence from Crime Writers of Canada, is no more. Although, BEA attendance is down 14%, that's a slight dip in this economy, it seems to me. It appears that this show is healthy enough. And it's proof that no matter what the venue, books can still create a serious buzz with booksellers, librarians and readers. I think that's a very good thing! ----------------------------------------- Mary Jane Maffini writes the Camilla MacPhee books and the Fiona Silk series as well as Charlotte Adams's adventures when she's not reading. Her latest book, Death Loves A Messy Desk, is now available. Visit Mary's Jane's Web site: www.maryjanemaffini.com

Lorraine Bartlett

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