If you live anywhere on planet earth then I’m sure you are well aware that last weekend was Greater Rolfe Days here in the crown jewel of America: Rolfe, Iowa.
For two and a half days our little family of 540 or so will get together and celebrate all that is Rolfe. There are tractor rides, the Lutheran Women’s Pie and Ice Cream Social, the rodeo…there are also the kids’ games.
Julie and I have done the kids’ games for most of the 11 years that we’ve lived here. Wanna know how it went? Here’s an excerpt I wrote in a letter to a friend:
Yesterday the kids’ games went great. There were of course several fiascos, but I’ve learned not to worry as no matter what, the kids just have fun. The main fiasco was the water balloons we bought. For years Julie and I have sat at the outside spigots at our various houses because those were the only faucets that would take our water balloons. There we would sit, sweating and swearing in the hot, hot sun trying to fill a hundred plus water balloons, missing the parade and other festivities. We were so happy to see a new invention that fills up 20 balloons at once! Not only that, they seal themselves when filled! BRILLIANT.
Here’s how they’re supposed to work: Each balloon has an incredibly tiny rubber band, and when the balloon is filled it comes off this little tube, and the rubber band is supposed to close the neck of the balloon enough that the water doesn’t come back out. Apparently, the tiny rubber bands weren’t tiny enough. So there we were, sitting at this big tub attached to the back of Julie and Scott’s lawn mower, Scott was working the hose and Julie and I were working like Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory trying to shove those little rubber bands down far enough so that the balloons wouldn’t leak. That *mostly* did the trick.
We tried taking the worst of them and tying knots instead. These balloons are made to be thin-skinned and are also biodegradable. Great for our planet, but tying? Not so much. I pride myself on the nimbleness of my fingers. I felt like Shrek with those little things.
Julie asked Scott what time it was amidst our frantic fumbling and when she heard she swore. Five minutes before game time and there were still dozens to go! I gathered up what we would need for the first game and took off to the park, leaving Julie and Scott to finish the balloons and follow. When I got there, there were several kids waiting.
“Not to worry, kids! We’ve had a slight water balloon emergency, but everything will be just fine!” I said cheerily.
I then started the first game which involved colanders and water and a relay to fill a empty ice cream bucket. As I was demonstrating, I dipped the colander into the trough and was going to put it over my own head for entertainment purposes. Plus, I was hot. But the thing was empty before I got it two feet out of the trough! This wasn’t going to work. Thinking fast, I doubled the colanders. Not much better.
Thinking even faster, I ran to my car and found…shopping bags! PHEW. If you put shopping bags into colanders, yes, it’s not tidy looking, but it stopped the water leaking enough…In my mind, the parents were thinking, “Why don’t they test these things out first?” although I’m sure they were far more charitable than that.
Then Julie arrived, absolutely mortified. Against Scott’s advice she had attempted to dump some of the water out of the tub. Half of those hard-gotten balloons had fallen out, just as Scott had warned. He was right! THIS TIME.
Even though we’d planned to finish with a water balloon fight, such was the fragility of these fiddly balloons that we had to have it right there and then. There were so few that had survived the leaking and dumping that the fight lasted less than two minutes and the kids were still raring to carry on. This time it was Julie’s turn to think fast. “Scott, go to the grocery store and get some cups!”
When Scott arrived with the cups…HUGE SUCCESS. This is Julie and my’s something like 10th time doing these kids games. All those years! ALL THOSE YEARS spent messing with those frustrating water balloons! And we weren’t saved with a new and handy invention, we were saved by plastic CUPS. Well, now we know.
Independence was adopted by…Deanna W. of Fredericksburg, Virginia. A new face! And she wrote me one of the nicest letters I’ve ever received. Thank you so much, Deanna!
I shall be going on a brief hiatus from Hazel Twigg, but do not forget me! I’ll be back!
And with that, I leave you! Happy hot days of summer! You’re my favorite.
My sister, the Mayor, is quite the crafty and rather gifted girl. A year or so ago when I was at a quilter’s estate auction I spied a lovely old dressmaker’s dummy that I KNEW she would like. I would have liked it too, but I have no room!
I’m so glad I gave it to her. She came up with something quite lovely. I probably would have decoupaged some old vintage advertising on it or some such thing. Not her! She spent days toiling away. It’s a sight to behold in person, with it’s swirl of patriotic bunting and rhinestones and pearls. The draping of the fabric reminded me of the Statue of Liberty. Therefore, I have my sister to thank for the inspiration for O.L.D. No. 92…
Thus begins the description for #92, Independence! You can see her adoption page HERE.
Thank goodness me wee dear sister finds dolls scary, because she would give me a run for my money. It’s not for nothing that I sneak into her house in the dead of night, a particularly scary doll clutched in my fist, whispering in the dark, “I’m gonna bite you with my nice….sharp….teeth.” Ah, the times we have! Plus, it keeps her good and scared of my dolls, and keeps me safe up here on my perch alone.
For those of you who don’t know, Julie and her husband Scott (the First Dude) live in a rather mansion-y house here in town, and I feel very fortunate every time I drive up her driveway. “Why, yes! I know these people who live here! That’s right, I have friends in this manse! Sure, they’re related, but…they like me! They really like me!”
I would never say this out loud to others, and they could probably give two flips about it, but to me it’s a privilege. I love Julie and Scott’s home. It was built in 1893, and the living room is large enough to boast two gorgeous old crystal chandeliers. There’s a cloak room in the entryway, and you can picture couples pulling up in horse and carriages to attend a ball. This thrills and fires my imagination.
There are two staircases, one for servants close to the kitchen, and the main one that leads up from the living room for the family. The main one has a landing with a bench, should you care to rest between climbs. Two staircases! That kind of house.
Which is why I knew Julie would have the space for that wonderful dressmaker’s dummy that nobody wanted. At that estate sale there were three in all. Two fairly nice new ones, and this old number with its cast iron base and chipboard body with the dented boob. The other two went for $15 or $20 each. The one I wanted…nothing! I bid $2 and held my breath. SOLD! Of course, I told Julie as I magnanimously gave it to her that I paid $50, but…that is neither here nor there.
Julie and I like to give each other little surprises now and then because life can be a tricky thing. But even with her busy schedule of Mayoring and working full time, she makes everything look so effortless.
“Whatcha doin’?” I’ll casually ask during one of our many, many conversations per day. “Oh, crafts.” And then I’ll go over to her house, and she’ll show me all these things she’s made! Wonderful things! When I first saw what she’d done with the dummy, I said, “Um, can I have that back…?” Of course I was just joking. Mostly. Well, at least I could steal the inspiration…
Julie had this wonderful old bunting she used for her dummy. I alas did not. I hand painted each and every star. “Oh, I’ll just zip downstairs to the kitchen, paint the stars, and while that’s drying I’ll….” NO SUCH THING. Turns out, painting hundreds of starts takes awhile. After all that painting, I then scrunched up the fabric so you couldn’t really see them anyway. No matter, I wanted scrunchy bunting, and I know the stars are there…
The beading was so much fun to do, but also time consuming! If it weren’t for Dowton Abbey, I might have injured myself. I’m currently watching all six seasons of “Downton Abbey” over and over as I sew. Thank goodness I find it engaging, because sometimes sitting there for hours with beads and threads and sharp, pointy needles…*bonk!* Next thing you know, your head droops, and there goes an eye…
Independence was a labor of love, and I hope you love her as we celebrate America’s birthday this coming week.
Bathing Beauty Macie was adopted by…Hillary P. of New York, New York! And to think I’ve never been there! THANK YOU, HILLARY!
With that, I leave you! Happy July 4th! You’re my favorite.
Several years ago I came across a photo from the 1920’s or thereabouts that so entranced me that I not only purchased it, which is unusual for me as I am a thrifty soul, I also became a fan of the photographer. His name was Mack Sennett, and he was an actor and director of silent films. He also rounded up various beautiful women and they became “Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties.”
So when it came the season to do a bathing beauty, I knew just who to use for my inspiration.
Thus begins the description for O.L.D. No. 91, Macie. You can see her adoption page HERE.
I bet you can guess which girl and outfit mesmerized me the most. She has a GIFT, and I don’t think it’s just the outfit. It’s the angle of her! Also, you know how I like pointy hats…
Mack Sennett was born in Canada in 1880 and eventually moved to California, where he became a producer and director. He discovered Charlie Chaplin, and directed him in 35 films. He also worked with W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby and Buster Keaton, to name a few. And sprinkled throughout many of his films was a bevy of attractive girls.
Though many of the Beauties did eventually go on to have thriving careers in Hollywood, most of them remained anonymous and came and went throughout the years. I studied Mr. Sennett’s photos of these “curious beauties” for inspiration for a swimming outfit from 1918 – to the early 20’s or so.
And to portray my bathing beauty, I was looking for a cheerful, happy girl who could come from that era. In this composition Arranbee Nancy doll, I found her! But there was a problem. Gulp. It was with her eyes…
A nice woman had contacted me via my YouTube channel with questions about her own doll. At the time, I had just begun working on Macie. I’ll let an excerpt from one of my responses to her in an email do the talking for me…
What a NIGHTMARE. It took me FOREVER to dig the irises out of the spare pair, and then when it came time to remove the ones I wanted to replace, there was a steel post in the way! I tried in vain to sand the post down – like THAT would work – and instead spent half an hour on the floor with a flashlight trying to find the crumbled bits of original eye. I only found 2/3’s. I glued the pieces in as best I could with clear glue and fortified the rest with tiny bits of leather and clear plastic, having gone mildly insane with panic by then….Sounds scary, huh?
I always say, “With doll repair you can have NO FEAR.” But I confess, that can sometimes lead to great panic. Ah, well! There was no way I could tell that sweet, cheerful girl she would have to wait for months or years until I got my nerve again, so onward we went!
I of course had to make another outfit for her for when she’s not frolicking on the beach. This includes a dress, coat and hat. The coat and hat are from some delicious old upholstery fabric with wonderful huge orange flowers sprinkled about. Our Macie is one of the few who could actually pull this fabric off!
Macie is O.L.D. No. NINETY-ONE. Just think! Only eight more before we’re in triple digits! I’m feverishly at work on number 92, who has GOT to be finished by this Sunday, otherwise she won’t be timely! Also, there’s my mortgage guy to think about. Let us not forget HIM…
Our sweet Safari Sahara was adopted by the even SWEETER Janey J. of Oakland, California! That makes FIVE O.L.D.’s for her! Janey, you know how much I adore you!
“Come in! Come in!” Hazel cried. She loves the arrival of new lost dolls. “You’re an Anne Shirley!” (she’s also getting quite expert at identifying them). “But what’s your name?” she continued.
The little girl’s pretty brown eyes looked up at us from her somewhat dirty face. “Sahara,” she said proudly.
“Goodness, Sara! Have you got the hiccups?” I asked.
Dot had jumped out from nowhere. For being such a small doll herself, it was a very loud “boo.”
“Dot!” I exclaimed. “You scared the new girl!”
The new little girl laughed. “I don’t have the hiccups, my name is SaHARa! You know, like the desert.”
She hadn’t even stepped out of the entryway, and I knew EXACTLY how she would be dressed…
Thus begins the description for O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 90, Sahara! You can see her adoption page HERE.
I have a soft spot for Safari girls. One of my favorite things about my childhood was how much my parents loved each other. There truly is no greater gift to give your children.
I remember one night in particular, It must have been around Halloween. My dad dressed up as a Sheik, and my mom dressed up as a Safari girl. I remember how beautiful my mother looked with her glamorous false eyelashes, and how funny my dad was as he really got into character to capture this gorgeous maiden. He took her in his arms and dipped her just before they swept out the door. It was pure joy to see them this way.
So of course I JUMPED at the chance to do my own Safari girl!
Reader, I swear to you: I’m doing my very best to try and get one girl up for adoption a week. After all, there are so many O.L.D.’s clamoring for their turn, in addition to me needing to keep a roof over their poor heads in the meantime! But try as I might, I lost two days on this one girl.
The first lost day was with the helmet. When you think of it, there are few dome-shaped things that exist that one might use. There are round things aplenty! Domed things, not so much. No matter, I had WIRE HANGERS! I could make my own! I spent all day grunting swearing and forming and shaping, trying to get the right angle. Trying to get them secure so that I might pull fabric tautly over them. I’m nothing if not stubborn.
But try as I might, it just wasn’t going to work. So what could I use? A-hah! Kitchen gadget drawer to the rescue! I used the largest of three small strainers. While I’m still not 100% happy with her helmet, at least she has one! And with that sturdy metal, she can go into any construction site without fear. Bonus!
The second day was lost over a monkey. I always have such visions of what my dolls will look like, imagining their “gallery” picture on eBay. In my mind, Sahara was surrounded by animals; a giraffe’s neck soaring out of sight. A colorful macaw on her shoulder. A monkey doing a photo bomb in front. I TRIED SO HARD.
I started with the monkey. It would have been absolutely worth it to me if it had worked! But even with all that toil, what I was getting was not one bit cute. In fact, he was a little scary looking. And just how was I to do the giraffe? It’s not as if I have “mini giraffe-pattern” fabric laying about. I swear, I contemplated appliqueing each little misshapen brown spot onto some pale yellow fabric if I could find some in the right shade. The macaw’s hooked beak was another matter…reality finally kicked in, and my sister Julie The Mayor got to say, “I told you so!”
Once I figured out an alternative so I could finish Sahara sometime this year, it was Julie that provided me with the styrofoam ball. She already given me the vintage animal cake toppers in the past, which is how I got the idea for this unusual accessory in the first place. I was contemplating using the somewhat dented styrofoam ball I had on hand because I dislike leaving my house. It was Julie that convinced me to use hers, as it was more dense than most and therefore took paint more easily so I could make a planet for these animals to march around.
“You’d better not pooh-pooh it!” she implored when I told her I was on my way over.
HMPF. Apparently, I “pooh-pooh” things a lot! Well, I’m aware now. How ungracious of me to pooh-pooh a gift horse! I kindly thank you, sweet Julie, and I shall attempt to pooh-pooh as little as possible in the future.
And I’d like to thank the Box Fairy that has been leaving boxes on my porch, answering my plea! No pooh-poohing here!
Vivian the Vivandiere was adopted by…..Michelle E.! She of Hudson, Colorado! I swear, it warmed my heart to see her again, because I take comfort in familiar things. Thank you, Michelle! And a thank you to all those that are familiar, and those that will be familiar in the future…
With that, I leave you! Happy next adventure, you’re my favorite!
If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I love to do a Patriotic doll. I was looking for inspiration and coming across images I’ve seen dozens of times before. But then I discovered something I’ve never heard of in all my days: Vivandiere.
[vee-vahn-dyair; French vee-vahn-dyer]
NOUN 1. a woman who formerly followed an army or maintained a store on an army post to sell provisions to the soldiers.
American women adopted this French term mainly during the Civil War, where both the Confederate and Union sides had Vivandieres in service. And no, these weren’t hussies! They were wives and daughters of soldiers who wanted to do what they could to help. So without further ado…
Thus begins the description page for Vivian the Vivandiere, O.L.D. No. 89. You can see her adoption page HERE.
I learn so much researching “What To Do Next” when coming up with inspiration for dolls! For example, did you know that the slouchy hat worn by both the Confederate and Union soldiers in the Civil War is called a “Kepi” hat? Me neither!
Unfortunately, as much as I learn there’s no way I can become an expert at something and complete an outfit in any reasonable length of time. I’m sure I’ve got some French things in there as well as Civil War. But sometimes I just have to go with what appeals to me and what I have on hand!
For example, months ago I purchased a bag of red, white, and blue fabric. It was mostly polyester, but there were a few other pieces that appealed to me as well, so for $2 I snatched it up. One of the things that appealed to me was two cut off legs from pair of bell bottoms. Somebody must’ve wanted some shorts in the 70’s…PERFECT for what would later become this girl’s skirt!
A lot of my inspiration photos came from a surprisingly lively and active site. It’s called “Civil War Talk” and they have several threads posted with more photos about Vivandieres. I was pleased to read on one of the threads a comment from a poster that said, ‘I’ve been on this site for two years, and I’d never heard of a Vivandiere!” Phew. So not just me then.
Even the official U.S. Army website has a page entitled, “Vivandieres: Forgotten Women of the Civil War.”
As always, I used what I have on hand. In this case, a wooden spool, napkin rings, popsicle sticks, the metal shaft from a paintbrush, a bead, a toothpick, and another metal thingy I found in the road.
I find a lot of little treasures in the road! Including the rusty ol’ bolt I found the other day when taking my new cat Piper in for spaying. In the gravel of the vet’s office, there was a just visible hexagon. I dug it out, pocketed it, took it home, cleaned it, and voila! Nice heavy stand for Vivian’s flag – which I also made!
For she’s a wonder!
The boys all ponder
To whom she’ll give her heart and hand,
This dearest girl in all the land!
She is the neatest, completest, sweetest,
A girl without a peer, the jolly vivandiere!
…Now YOU know about Vivandiere’s too!
Sweet Cinnamon Drop was adopted by…Hillary of New York! I also thoughtfully sent her some scissors accidentally left in the box. Honestly, I’m surprised that doesn’t happen more often. Luckily, I am rich in scissors…thank you, Hillary!
And with that, I leave you! Happy upcoming Memorial Day! You’re my favorite.
In my defense, when I picked this little girl along with her name and fabrics, it was still very un-Springlike outside. I was still clomping along in my house wearing my trusty Mukluks and infinity scarfs! I confess to be one of those very few who actually prefers winter and who has a hard time saying goodbye to it and longs for the day when it will come again.
“Hurry up leaves!” I cry to the trees with the fresh green sprouts. “Hurry up and GROW so you can TURN YELLOW AND DIE!”
To make up for it, I made O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 88 a previously unplanned “Springy” dress. Now she’s ready for ANY season…
Thus begins the description for Cinnamon Drop. You can see her adoption page HERE.
The instant I picked Cinnamon up, I knew her name and exactly what she would wear. I LOVE when that happens! At first I was just going to use her for my video on restringing, but in that time when I was feeling like a fish in unfamiliar water, I needed to do something that felt warmly familiar. So even though spring was upon us and cinnamon is a decidedly fall spice, I decided to go with her now.
“Okay, but DO NOT make that spring dress!” my sister The Mayor cried, waving her tiny fists. “Make her strictly a cold weather girl!”
Julie only wants the best for me. It was Sunday morning and I was rushing to get Cinnamon ready to put up for adoption that night.
I’d gone back and forth. There are practical considerations! For example, her cold weather outfit called for brown shoes and what kind of spring dress goes with those? I was already struggling to regain my footing, and I already take so long on these girls…
I was able to get her done in time but was exhausted when I finished. Even though it was 5:30 I decided to take a nap. There have to be some perks working for yourself! The ability to take naps at odd hours! When I woke up that evening at 10:30, it was as if there had been an apocalypse, and me and Teddy and my new cat Piper were the only ones alive on the planet. I’d completely missed Julie, who I talk to several times in the evening.
It was a little bit magical standing there outside in a silent Rolfe in the moonlight with the stars twinkling overhead and Teddy on a leash sniffing about and Piper in my arms because she isn’t fixed yet.
When I checked to see how Cinnamon was doing and saw that many people wanted her, I almost cried. I definitely said a prayer of thanksgiving. Because it’s hard to feel so lost for awhile and to wonder what it is you should be doing. So I would like to thank all who follow and who look and who bid. YOU and THIS are where I belong.
SPRING & LILLY were adopted by our dear Hillary P. of New York. THANK YOU, Hillary! More than you know.
And with that, I leave you! It’s nice to re-meet you. You’re my favorite!
Honestly, Reader. It’s not you, it’s ME.
As I mentioned in my last post, “Hazel Twigg LIVE!” I was going to do a series of videos and post them on Facebook and YouTube, and I did! I did my level best. This was all very new to me and really rather tricky. My brothers had grown somewhat impatient, wondering why I wasn’t also on Instagram and Snapchat, and why I wasn’t posting things several times a day. They had nothing but great and loving intentions. Nevertheless, I have since had an ever-so-genteel meltdown, with tears flowing down my face like the sparkliest of diamonds and hardly any snot at all.
I think of it as sort of a Stockholm syndrome thing going on here.
When I first moved to this small town of a scant square mile in the middle of nowhere ten and a half years ago, I had a hard time not going insane if I didn’t get out of town at least – at least – once a week.
Enter the winters. Sometimes there’s no traveling, even if you have the will. I learned this lesson my first winter here, where I had the worst case of cabin fever ever known to this woman. I HAD TO GET OUT OF TOWN. So I called a friend with a truck, and bless his heart, he hooked up my Durango, and he drrraaaagggggged me out of that last deep bank of snow in my driveway, bending my deer guard. I didn’t care! I was free! I WAS FREE!
When I finally got to Target an hour or so later by the skin of my teeth I was tempted to kiss the ground. Not because I was glad to see civilization in the form of retail, but because I was still alive. And desperately dreading the drive back home. I vowed never to drive when the weather was bad again.
Soon I was working from home on the dolls that I love so much, although my income was not a guarantee. If I was able to make it out of town once a month during the times when the weather was good I was grateful. Then came the year of operations with months of recovery time, which prompted me to give up my car altogether. For two years I bummed rides when I could. If I got a wild hair, which I frequently did, and longed to go somewhere, anywhere! I walked to the cemetery or grocery store instead.
To keep from going insane, I embraced the trap. I embraced it hard. A Stockholm vacuum as it were. A cozy cave were I could write and create and not comb my hair or wear a bra and I go for days where the only face I see is my dog Teddy’s. I often don’t set foot outside my own yard, let alone this little town in the middle of nowhere.
But Hazel Twigg is NOT dead. Far from it! I’ve gone back to working on dolls in my cozy cave alone with no one watching and I’m feverishly working on the rewrite every chance I get. I’m excited about the book’s whole new direction and still believe in its upcoming success. And 20 years from now I shall be the token old lady celebrity on season 57 of “Dancing With The Stars.” People shall watch in dreadful anticipation to see a legend author/doll restorer prance, and I shall surprise and amaze them with my nimble fluidity and my ability to kick high, for an old lady…
I’ll be doing a post on my current O.L.D. 88 Cinnamon Drop in a day or two.
And with that, I leave you! Never, ever forget YOU ARE MY FAVORITE and I adore you!
Coming to you this morning at 10:00 Central, ready or not! I’m going to go Live via Facebook, hopefully from the Hazel Twigg page. Whether 0 people watch or one (Hi Mom!), I have to start somewhere.
I’m going to reveal the first and best tip I ever received for vintage composition doll repair and introduce the next O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll), as well as reveal what’s to come in the future. ANYONE can restore these lovely old girls, you just have to be willing to try. As I am.
In my head, it always goes great. I shall evolve to make it come true in reality. Cheers!
…it’s time to WRITE.
I bet my brothers think I’m sitting around eating bonbons, taking them for granted. I am not! The proof shall be in the pudding. Because writing is not what I’m supposed to be doing! Well, not entirely. I’m supposed to also work on Facebook Live! chats and demonstrations and clean the rubble out of my sewing room to get it ready for prime time.
But the day before yesterday I had a mini meltdown. I forgot to record a check which almost had disastrous consequences, and I had a delayed reaction to the death of my cat where I finally had a good cry. Still, I gamely forged on, attempting to do my first Facebook Live! broadcast as I had promised the day before because I had promised it, only to discover when I played it back that there was no sound. And I’d been so flawless, too! I bet the person watching was disappointed. Har.
Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day! This “sound not working” is a common problem apparently, and you need some sort of knowledge about computers to fix it. My brain is already fried from all the learning I’ve done recently as I get myself up to speed. Believe it or not, I’m not gifted in that regard and can only take in so much technical knowledge at a time. I took a day away from it yesterday to write. I felt guilty the whole time, knowing there was so much more I was supposed to be doing.
Then this morning as I was in the shower (twice a week whether I like it or not. Don’t judge me! I bet if you worked from your home where you went days without seeing a soul you’d morph the same way. And it’s not like I’m breaking a sweat going from one comfy chair to the next, plying a needle this way and that. Feel the burn!) my mind was so preoccupied with new chapters and plot twists that I washed my hair twice and was reaching for the shampoo bottle for a third time before I realized what I was doing.
I think it’s because ever since I got that rejection letter I’ve been re-writing and re-plotting in my mind, and I finally have the chance to actually DO it. I AM INSPIRED. I am writing like a FIEND and the story’s coming together so well that I cannot stop.
So there will be a slight delay in the other outlets, but they are still coming soon. Do not fret, dear brothers.
Here’s what’s going on with Hazel Twigg: in a nutshell, a LOT.
July 20, 2016
Thank you for submitting your manuscript, Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway, to __________ Publishing.
Unfortunately, this submission isn’t quite what we’re looking for. However, we enjoyed your story so much that we’d like to offer some feedback.
I’ll begin with the positives. First, I adored your well-developed characters. Every character I met (save for Hazel at times—see below) had a distinct personality, a memorable appearance, an interesting backstory, and clear goal. Your cast was so well-developed, in fact, that I can remember each member by name. Excellent work.
Second, I loved your whimsical voice. Your long, thoughtful sentences and cheeky tone remind me of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I found myself smiling every few sentences. Beautifully done. We very rarely find authors with such strong voices.
As for the negatives, there are three major reasons why __________ can’t accept your novel.
The first involves your point-of-view characters. __________ prefers stories told mainly from the perspective of a single character—in your case, Hazel. Your story is told from the perspectives of many characters. We (your readers) are often in the heads of characters we’re interested in but don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time with, e.g. the mad toymakers, the batty real-estate agent, the handsome bad guy. We’re much more interested in Hazel’s thoughts and actions.
Second, __________ prefers main characters who are active decision makers. We like characters with clear goals and a strong drive to meet those goals. While Hazel does make some decisions in the first half of the book, she often feels like she’s being dragged through her adventure against her will. Try making her a more active participant in the story.
Finally, the whole thing was a bit slow. I suggest reading Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat to learn how many successful authors and screenplay writers pace their books and movies.
Again, I’d like to stress how much I enjoyed your book. It has great publication potential. Should you choose to submit another manuscript to us in the future, we look forward to reading it.
All the best,
I agree with her criticisms (I bet you do too) and while the letter is brutally honest, being compared to Harry Potter is nothing to sneeze at! My thought is that if I can make these changes, and do them well, there’s an excellent chance this company will publish my book. I desperately wanted to tackle this rewrite, but real life abounds. There were bills to pay; if I could just catch up first…
I’ve been living by the skin of my teeth for quite some time. Taking rather common old dolls and fixing them and dressing them and putting them up for adoption starting at $9.99 for a living isn’t for sissies; you miss a week here for a family reunion, a few days there for the flu, a doll or two or three don’t do as well as you’d hoped, and…how do you stop bailing long enough to reach out for a lifeline that could save everything? That lifeline being the possibility of future success and a much better boat if you just have the faith? I’m here to tell you, it’s very hard to do.
Enter my brothers! They’ve temporarily plugged the ship and put the lifeline within reach. All I have to do is learn to swim. Fast. They sent me a smart phone so that I could do live things via Facebook and Instagram and YouTube and the like. THIS is my chance for that final push to make Hazel Twigg all that it can be.
The struggle is it’s as if I’ve been on a deserted island and have no idea how to do any of these things. Until two weeks ago, I’d never even texted! My dear friend, Jennifer Trenary, sat down with me and my new phone for nearly THREE HOURS to get me up to speed. Thank you, Jennifer!
The premise of the book Save the Cat the publisher mentions in her letter is this: If your heroine does something in the beginning of the book such as saving a cat, your reader will like and trust her and want to spend time in her head. I promptly ordered the book and read it.
Over the months as I contemplated changes while still clinging stubbornly to my barely floating boat, I’ve giggled madly to myself with different scenarios for “cat saving”:
Hazel: “Hey mom, your tag is out. Let me fix that for you…”
We cackled together over that one. I’m still working on it, of course…
That is just ONE of the challenges. I’ve removed all the non-Hazel-centric chapters and they totaled 26,500 words in all. Maxwell has been reduced to a car driving by. Smith and Jones have completely disappeared. POOF! It’s daunting, to say the least, but it needed to be done and I’m grateful to actually have the chance to sit down and DO IT.
Here is the plan: I’ll be doing one or two dolls a month, and I’ll be taking doll people and anyone else who wants to watch on the journey with me step-by-step, as a doll person, a writer, and a liver of life in the middle of nowhere in Iowa. I’ll be doing so via several new fronts that I’m just now learning, and I’ll be letting people into my sewing room, a place that I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve allowed in since I turned it into a sewing room a decade ago. I’ll be showing everyone how to do what I do. It’s a gamble. At the same time I’m going to do a complete overhaul of my book. AND there’s a deadline.
No pressure. No pressure at all…
But, hey! One of the perks of that is if I’m successful, it’ll make the current copies of the book as it is, 300 copies in all, worth MORE in the future!
I was all set to go starting today, but over the weekend there was a cat I couldn’t save: my own. Lilly was absolutely fine, then Saturday morning I could tell she wasn’t feeling well. I made her as comfortable as I could, checked on and fretted over her throughout the day, hoping it was something that would pass. By Saturday evening she was gone, just like that. It was very sudden.
My sweet neighbor Tom M. was kind enough to gather her for me and put her in my neighbor Brandi’s garage for the night as my garage is not sound. On Sunday morning Julie and my brother-in-law Scott and I had a burial after much digging in slightly frozen ground. We put Lilly next to Elsie. We are down to two heartbeats in this house and it’s an adjustment, that’s all there is to it.
So starting tomorrow! Live, live, live! Swim, swim, SWIM.
Wish me luck and send me your prayers, please.
With that, I leave you! Happy Monday, you’re my favorite.