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4 posts from January 2011

Excerpt! January 28, 2011

It's that day! The day you get a leetle teaser of the next book! A good, yarny one, too: IT'S HERE. I really hope you enjoy it.

And oooh, I got a few great reviews, recently, too. *giddy chair dance*

"In her engaging sequel to How To Knit a Love Song, Herron revisits the community of Cypress Hollow and its familiar faces as well as new characters who are as entertaining as they are complicated...Herron’s second novel will earn her a well-deserved place in the ever-expanding knit-chick lit genre." - Library Journal

"Herron's sweet, comforting tale comes with a built-in surprise: the knitted pattern to Ruby's Bookstore Sweater included in the back."  - Publishers Weekly

"A heart-warming story of family, friendship and love in a town you'll never want to leave." - Barbara Freethy, USA Today Bestselling Author

"A seamless blend of romance, friendship, and laughter that will keep you turning the pages." - Barbara Bretton, USA Today Bestselling Author

"A sweet comfort read, with an edge of humor and irony that strikes just the right note." - Susan Wiggs, NYT Bestselling Author

4 Stars - Romantic Times


Oh, also, if you're in the Bay Area, can you come to the release party? I'd love it if you could. Really. PRIZES OF WOOL! March 3rd, 7pm, SF. Deets here.

Aloha! January 21, 2011

If you've been watching my Twitter or Facebook account, you're aware of the fact that this week we pulled a runner and went to Hawaii! We had neither time nor money to go for long, so we went for the MRT (Minimum Relaxtion Time). Three full days, four nights seemed to do the trick nicely.

The first day, we relaxed. We lucked into a FABULOUS hotel, the Aqua Beachside Waikiki, which was, with the Travelocity deal, about $50/night. And this was our view from our lanai:


And it was like that, from full left to full right. We were on the tenth floor (room 1002), and the room itself was tiny. Two people need to be quite close to enjoy a small room like that. But it didn't matter! I used all the drawers because I'm a Cancer and we left the sliding glass door open most of the time. Who wouldn't?


Looking right, to the Royal Hawaiian.

The first day we spent doing this:


Looking up into the palm fronds from our patch of sand. I tried to read, I really did, but the words kept blurring into shapes that turned into clouds and then I napped, without even trying. People, I'm NOT a good napper. Apparently where I need to be to nap is on a tropical beach. Good to know.

The next day, we went to Hanauma Bay and snorkeled. I hadn't snorkeled in fifteen years or so, since my last trip to Saipan in my early twenties, but it was just as fun as I'd remembered. I love that feeling of kicking lazily, my hands drifting next to my side, following currents and schools of fish....

Of course, the dream is to see a sea turtle, right? I've never seen one, in memory, and I've snorkeled a lot. While we were lying on the beach, I overheard one guy saying he'd seen one, about 100 yards past where the lifeguards had said not to go because of the riptide. Okay, then. I gave up hope and I was happy just to see gorgeous fish.

We went out again to the eastern side of the bay, near the rocks. I was practicing skin diving (I used to be really good at holding my breath and diving down to peer under coral ledges, and did you KNOW that today's snorkel is all high-tech and stuff? It doesn't let in water! I'd pop up and blow hard, only to find that I didn't need to -- it was already clear. Wild), and on my way up, I saw a turtle.

A big one. Weaving his way underwater, his fins tipping and scooping through the water.

I went into one huge spastic fit, trying to get Lala's attention. She was all caught up looking at a pretty rock, and I was just out of her line of sight as I flailed every limb and yelled wordlessly into my high-tech snorkel. Finally catching sight of what I was pointing at, she fell in behind me as we trailed behind it for about five minutes.

It was one of the most gorgeous moments of my life.

Then we got a little too close to the breakers, and we had to turn back, which was okay. We were high with the joy of it. (Lala had just taken her last underwater photo on her camera, which we regretted at first, but the more I thought about it, the happier I was that she just got to swim and watch and FEEL it, rather than struggling with advancing the film, getting the shot, clicking the shutter.... YOU know.)

The last day we did more of what we'd done on the first day: read, napped, wandered the streets looking for good food.... I have to say that using Yelp on a smart phone has forever changed travel in America for me. While lying on the beach, I could enter Open Now, Within Two Blocks, Best Rated and get walking directions to someplace like Iyasumi Musubi, the BEST musubi in Hawaii. (Okay, before this trip I didn't even know what musubi was, and when I googled it to find out, the idea of sweet fried spam sushi didn't appeal to me in the slightest. But the reviews were SO fantastically high that curiosity had its way with us, and we found our way to the shop's hidden alley and our minds WERE BLOWN. I have fantasized about it almost non-stop since getting home, and MUST find some in the Bay Area.)

Yelp also led us to what we believe was our best bar experience, ever. (Hi, that's a large statement.) Wang Chung's, next door to the musubi shop, was literally smaller than our living room. When we arrived, there were fifteen people already there, and the bartender Henry waved hello and said he'd be right with us. Henry was the bartender, the busboy, the runner-of-the-Karaoke machine, and the greeter. He was everything to everybody, and everyone was so full of love for him that it spilled over onto each other. At one point I was singing the Judd's "Have Mercy" while dancing with a tiny man who ended up tripping and falling backwards into my arms. I caught him, propped him gently against a stool, and never missed a note. When we finally left, I wanted to go back five minutes later. We *didn't* go back, actually, and didn't talk about revisiting it, but I'd venture a guess it was because neither of us wanted to risk ruining the memory of that perfect night.

I spent as much time in the water as I could (until my ears sealed closed, which was a small pain in the ass):


and I did NOT burn. I didn't even tan. I used SO MUCH sunscreen. 70 SPF, two bottles' worth. I was SAFE.

Apropos of nothing (as were they), we saw chickens:


And we relaxed. Oh, we were so LUCKY. What a wonderful trip. More photos over at Flickr, iffen you're interested.

Now, I'm going to carry that relaxed feeling over into the real world. Really. I'm going to try. I've got aloha in my soul, tucked into my pockets, and rolled up into my socks. I do.  

Great ReviewJanuary 15, 2011

From the Library Journal! Woot!

Herron, Rachael. How To Knit a Heart Back Home: A Cypress Hollow Yarn.
In her engaging sequel to How To Knit a Love Song, Herron revisits the community of Cypress Hollow and its familiar faces as well as new characters who are as entertaining as they are complicated. When Owen Bancroft, a man with an unhappy childhood, a tarnished police career, and a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s, returns to town, he isn’t expecting to be captivated by bookstore owner and compulsive knitter Lucy Harrison. Quite unexpectedly, the two find themselves working frantically to rescue a car accident victim. It isn’t a surprise that the pair quickly discover they are physically attracted to each other, and they rather timidly begin a sweet romantic relationship with more than its share of difficulties. Knitting love and lore play a major part here; each chapter opens with a knitting quote, and the author’s love of the craft shines through with an intensity that only adds to the plot. Even nonknitters might be intrigued enough to pick up a pair of needles as they turn pages. VERDICT Herron’s second novel will earn her a well-deserved place in the ever-expanding knit-chick lit genre. Patrons who in the past have clamored for the novels of Debbie Macomber, Kate Jacobs, or Gil McNeil will definitely find this a good read.—Margaret Hanes, Civic Ctr. Lib., Warren, MI

I'm so excited! It's so close now! Six weeks! (And I adore that this reviewer picked up on my love of the craft. It is a big, big love. Yep.)


Four Rules For CreativityJanuary 9, 2011

Last week, when we were out eating sushi, Lala asked me, "Where do you get your ideas?"

I thought, Oh, please. Do we need to search this hard for a small-talk topic? (I was in a mood.) Then I said, generically, "Ideas are everywhere." I didn't know she actually wanted to know.

Then on Friday night, we hung out in the kitchen and had a three hour conversation about creativity that was just about the most fun I've had in conversation in a long time.

She's an artist, see. A really good one. In fact, when I think of her and creativity, I think of her art even before her music. And she's been thinking a lot about creativity in general, and had some questions, which I was astonished to find I could answer (for myself at least -- creativity is, of course, a strange, fickle beastie and is different for everyone).

I've wanted to write since I could hold a pencil. But it's only been the last four years that I've pushed it, and in 2010, I pushed myself further than I'd gone before in terms of channeling ideas into concrete Things (books), and I guess I've learned some things, in spite of myself.

1) Creativity within constraints. I'm 38, and from the time I was a child up until I was 34, this is how I thought about writing (and this includes while I was doing my MFA work): I want to write. I want to write, oh, about love, and a tree with a woman under it, and a SAD feeling, with joy to follow, and oh, it's so pretty. Then I'd pick up my pen or open a blank document and go, GAWP.

If you sit down and try to write a book (or paint a picture or knit a sweater, for that matter), you have to have some idea where you're going, right? But how do you GET to that point? Say I want to write about a young woman with a rare disease who learns how to charm snakes. But I also want to write the dancing-monkey-in-Burma book that's been flitting around my head. And I also can't let go of the Venetian gondolier story that keeps knocking at the window of my brain. If I go with the rare-disease-girl book, HOW DO I KNOW I'M RIGHT? What if this fails, what if I'm totally wrong, and I never finish it, or worse, I do and it sucks, and all the time, I should have been writing about the monkey?

How do you make decisions about where to chase that creative impulse?

You just decide. That's it. Your choice, by the way, will be wrong. By choosing it, you will NOT be able to chase those other ideas, and because you didn't, they will never come to life the way they would have if you'd started them now. It's okay for that to hurt while you work on accepting it.

But whatever you choose will also be right. You know why? Because you will make it right. If you narrow yourself down to something (really, anything), you will get something done. If I just sit down and write the snake charmer story,  it won't be everything I thought or hoped, but in many ways it will be a million times better, and THEN I'll be able to move on to the Venetian gondolier. And in the meantime, I've kind of decided it might be a female gondolier (gasp!) and I wouldn't have thought of that if I'd started it six months ago.

Pick something. Decide. Even if you have to do it arbitrarily, decide. Narrow your options (make someone else do it for you if you can't). Then do it.

2) Give Yourself Permission to Navel-Gaze. Even if you're not writing a memoir or painting a self-portrait, there will be that moment of horror when you realize, OH MY GOD I'm just writing about myself, and I'm the most narcissistic, solipsistic, self-indulgent person EVER.

Lala had a taste of terror about this, which is how it came up--she does NOT want to talk about herself in her drawing. She's fine talking about herself in casual conversation, but to base art on herself? How could she do that? But seriously, moments in her life SCREAM to be drawn in comic form. So. How does one allow oneself to go there? When is it okay to say, "I'm going to use MYSELF for this model?"

First, it helps to stay honest. The more honest I go with my work, the more embarrassing it is, which leads me to think I'm not tooting my own horn: I'm actually turning the floodlights on the chipped, faded, broken parts. And that's okay. (Just as okay as shining the light on the great, glowing, pretty parts. But in my own work, I don't find that as funny, which is what I enjoy writing more.)

It doesn't feel great to have this worry. But it's normal. Feel that way, then accept it, and keep working. You only know one person--body, mind, and soul--and that's you. Why wouldn't you bring that into your story? You SHOULD. And it's okay.

3) Give yourself permission to suck. I know you've heard this before, and I know that every time I heard it I'd nod and agree, and then when I actually DID suck, I'd beat myself up and throw the words away. What I really thought was that it was okay for everyone else to suck, but not for me.

That's ridiculous. The first draft is always ass, as is (probably) the first sketch of something. How do you know how something should really look if you don't (really) know what it wants to be yet? Let it suck. And this is important: If you have to leave it there, leave it behind, sucking in its devastating awfulness? Leave it behind. I wrote two drafts of the book I'm finishing rewrites on that don't even COUNT because they didn't work (I do count the 1/4 book I've subtracted from the current words while revising). I'd actually completely forgotten I'd written those first two drafts (they were about small-town mechanics. Now it's a doctor book. Completely, from-the-ground-up different, but their bones lie beneath the foundation of the book's structure, and I need them there for stability).

4) No excuses. You've also heard this before, but it's at this point that I get all tough-love from my bloggity-soapbox. If you want to write, write. If you want to draw, draw. If you want to create anything, do it and quit talking about it. There are a billion people who know they have books/art in them, and they'll tell you all about their ideas, and yet they never write/draw a thing. And in the end, they won't. After all, "How you spend your days is how you spend your life." (--Annie Dillard, thanks to Sarah for reminding me who said it!) If that isn't a chilling/thrilling reminder, I don't know what is.

But you can.

No one is too busy. YOU are not too busy to write for ten minutes a day. Five, if that's all you've got (but you have more, I know you do). John Scalzi says it so well (from this excellent article):

Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.


I've learned this: I love to write. I need to write. And more, I need to push myself to work. When I'm accountable to myself, it's so flipping worth it. It's also SO OFTEN no fun, but sometimes it's the most exciting thing in the world. I've made myself laugh so many times while writing things I never saw coming, and five or six times I've made myself cry (which is kind of ridiculous and makes me think of Joan Wilder in that first great Romancing the Stone scene), and I love it. I love this life. If you're drawn to the artistic, then MAKE ART. And have fun. Do it.