Packing Up

I’ve been reading blog posts the last couple months about packing up to move: tips on box size, labels, if you are using a moving company, if you aren’t, lists to make, things to do, ways to pickup your life in one place and shift it to another location.

Those posts don’t cover things like how to deal with the unexpected emotional fallout when you realize you have to leave your plants behind.  There’s no advice in how to fend off a feeling of panic when you have to break up the set of glassware you got from your great grandmother, packing the glasses in one box and the bottles in another.  I have yet to find any tips on how to decide what to pack and what to get rid of when you don’t know how long your belongings will be in storage.

The consent judgement will be entered into record on June 12.  That is our vacate date.  I learned it yesterday.  There was, not a sense of relief, but a recognition and determination that filled me when I read the e-mail.  After months of not knowing when I had to leave my house, now I had a date.  Now I can shut down utilities and start packing in earnest.  Now I have one less “I don’t know” hanging over my head.

Now I know when I become officially homeless.

It’s not that we don’t have a plan.  We will be driving out to Laramie, where I have family and my husband has a job offer.  He and our son and our cats will be staying with my cousin and his family until they can move into a house we’ll be leasing from a friend. After they’ve been dropped off, my daughter and I turn around and head back to Illinois.  That’s where it gets complicated.

My petition to relocate hasn’t been approved.  The pre-trial hearing is scheduled for the end of June, with the actual hearing following in mid-July.  And so I have to stay in Illinois with my daughter until I find out if I will be able to take her to Laramie with me.  The plan is for us to crash with friends, stay in hotels and camp.  It sounds all very adventurous, but I will admit to being anxious about the whole thing.

There is still the possibility that my relocation request will be denied.  In that case we have to head back to Wyoming to get my son and husband and cats and bring them back to Illinois and find a place to live.  Seeing how the idea is to move to a place where the cost of living is cheaper and there is a support structure, staying in Illinois sees me stuck in the same situation I have been over the past year.

There is no alternative, however.  I will not live someplace where I can’t have my daughter with me.

So I keep packing boxes, hoping to get everything packed up in time so I can finish the reshoot of pictures for Sew Witchy.  I will continue to run the 50% off sale over at my Etsy store until the 9th of June.  Then I’ll shut it all down.  I will try to stay so busy that my Jerk Brain doesn’t have time to work its way back into existence.

Sew Witchy: Shooting the Book

My new best friend, a baggie of rice
We’re going to Vegas some day.

If anyone had told me in March that my new best friend would be a bag of rice, I wouldn’t have believed them.  But after my marathon photo session for Sew Witchy I’m ready to name that bag Wilson and get matching tattoos.

The thing is, I’m a writer, not a photographer.  That didn’t stop me from saying, “Yes, of course,” when Llewellyn asked if I could supply the step-by-step and finished project photos for the book.  I’d snapped pictures for this blog and Instagram before with my phone.  How hard could it be?

Oh ho!  Let me tell you: I was woefully unprepared for how hard it was.  And while I think the final photos turned out all right, I have no desire to do this again.  (Famous last words, I know.  Although they’re easy to write now as I don’t have any ideas for another craft book.)

I went into my photographical journey thinking that the hardest part would be how much longer it would take to complete each project.  I figured it would take twice as long so that’s what I planned for.  Instead, I quickly realized it was taking more like three to four times as long.  I was photographing each step, even if I didn’t think it needed to be documented because the book was meant to be accessible to new sewists.

As an aside can I just talk about what a trip it is to write a book about sewing book when you are self-taught?  Several times I would stop in mid-stitch and question if my technique was “proper”.  Was this the sort of thing a beginner should start with?  I had to look up terms to make sure they meant what I thought they meant.  At every step I had to stop and make sure that I had adequately explained what to do.  Just writing instructions and then photographing the various stitches used in the book was a process that took days.

Measuring the tea pot
Other things I learned: double sided tape is super helpful when taking pictures.

So, back to the pictures.  I had sent sample photos to the art director months before and was told I needed to use a tripod and provide photos in both horizontal and vertical shots.  My local library had tripods I could check out which addressed the first issue.  The second was a bit trickier.  The tripod couldn’t hold the camera vertical leaving me at a loss of what to do.  I came up with the brilliant idea to shoot step-by-step photos on a white piece of foam board.  I’d take one shot and then rotate the foam board 90° and take another “vertical” shot.

I only got through the first day of that when my friend Randy, who does photo art layout and design for a living, kindly told me that my brilliant idea wasn’t really.  He’s the one who clued me in to the bag of rice trick.  (Actually he suggested a bag of beans but I’m more of a canned beans kind of witch, so I instead filled a sandwich baggie full of rice.)  I would take the horizontal pictures, then balance the camera on its side on top of the rice, which was balanced on the tripod.  This added to the time each picture took, but it meant that there weren’t as many pictures that looked like I had taken them during an earthquake.

As difficult as all the above was, getting shots of the finished wearables was an experience on a whole ‘nother level.  The sample robe was modeled by my son Benjamin.  He is a ball of chaotic energy, rarely able to stay still for even a microsecond.  A good 99% of the photos I took were blurry.  Eventually Ben ran out of patience and refused to pose any longer, leaving me with exactly two pictures I could use.  To all the child photographers out there, you have my utmost respect.

In the end I took over 1000 pictures.  (Not counting the pictures I lost one day when I returned the camera to the library without transferring the day’s photos over to my computer. Fun times.) Of those, about 350 were sent on to the art director.  By the end my everything hurt: back, legs, feet, head and hands.  My house looked like a tornado had hit a craft store and dumped the debris all over it.  Dishes didn’t get washed.  Floors had gone unvacuumed.  Cats had not been pet.  If my husband hadn’t stepped in to take care of things while I toiled the family would have been wandering around hungry and disheveled.

I’ve always been the type of person who learned by diving in the deep end.  This is no exception.  And I did learn.  The pictures I took at the end are world’s better than those I took at the beginning.  I’m in no hurry to put my newfound skills to use, though.  I’m going back to amateur camera phone photos.

UPDATE: After writing this post, I got word from my editor that I need to reshoot all of the finished project shots.  I sort of took their comments on my first sample shots a bit too far and ended up with very sterile shots.  Fortunately, the editorial team sent me a document with notes for each shot.  And, a friend offered me the use of a tripod that can do both horizontal and vertical shots.  So my best friend will be retired and I’ll be able to get the pictures done faster.

Sew Witchy: Finding an Agent

I am an example of the saying “There’s no road map to success.”  I posted earlier about how I wrote the proposal for my book Sew Witchy.  It was accepted by the first publisher I submitted to.  That’s not the way it usually works out and I found myself caught off guard.  Once I got over the surprise of Llewellyn Worldwide‘s acceptance, I realized I needed to get started on finding an agent.

I have experience with publishing contracts, but I wasn’t under any illusion that I would be able to negotiate a contract on my own.  Also, I want to have a writing career, and having an agent will help with that.  Finding an agent now would help with both those issues.  And, I figured, having a contract in hand would make it much easier to attract an agent.  So, much sooner than I had expected, I found myself once again engaging in caffeine-fueled Google searching. Continue reading Sew Witchy: Finding an Agent

Making it Work: Updates

I can’t believe it is April already.  January seemed to drag on forever, and now it is Spring (well, in theory, it’s still occasionally snowing and cold here).  I spent much of the last three months waiting on one thing or another, working towards deadline after deadline.  Now, with the last deadline almost here, I have a moment to catch my breath.

My house is still working through foreclosure.  I’ve made plans to move in June, presuming I can get things settled on the custody of my daughter.  By the time of my hearing later this month I’ll have spent nearly $4000 on legal fees to sort things out.  It might end up costing me even more and drag on past June.  I’ve contingency plans for housing in case that happens.

The housing and custody issues have only occupied 3/4 of my time.  The rest has been spent on my book.  The publisher, Llewellyn, has given it a new name: Sew Witchy.  I spent most of February and March making edits.  I added a whole new section on sewing basics, including descriptions of various stitches use throughout the book.  My editor also requested that I add a few more projects so I spent several weeks buried in mountains of muslin to make a robe and hooded cape pattern.

It’s eye-opening to write about basic sewing stuff when I’ve been sewing for so long.  Stopping and having to describe things that I do automatically now required a lot of effort on my part.  Fortunately, my editor is a self-proclaimed sewing newbie, so she pointed out all the spots that needed expansion.  Even so, I spent a lot of time second-guessing my writing, wondering if I was explaining things adequately.

This week I’m busy taking the last of the photos for the book.  I understand now why so many sewing books rely on illustrations rather than photos for step-by-step instructions.  You don’t have to deal with lighting or fabric that won’t lie flat or wrinkles that won’t release no matter how much you press them.  I have an even greater respect for people who can work a camera now.

I’ll be posting over the next couple of weeks about the book.  I figured people might be interested in reading the proposal I sent out when I was looking for a publisher, and how I got my agent.  There will also be more customer profiles and book reviews and sewing weirdness.