March, 2017

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When You Shampoo Your Hair Twice…

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…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.

I took the draft copy of the book and tore out all the chapters that are going to go. Believe it or not, it was very satisfying. Plus, it’s easier to work with if I can hold the current product before some somewhat major tweaks in my hands.

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.

Send bonbons!

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LISTEN! Do You Want To Know The Secrets…?

Here’s what’s going on with Hazel Twigg: in a nutshell, a LOT.

Last July I received the following rejection letter:

July 20, 2016 

Dear Ruth,

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,

Acquisitions Editor


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…

Tom Hanks in Castaway

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.

Jennifer is the BEST. And her hands are really quite pretty. Ahem.

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 Rewrite

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…”

Or here’s my sister Julie’s helpful suggestion: “Mithter! Mithter! You dropped your wallet!”

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.

The Future

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!

You wouldn’t think it to look at it, but for some reason when my garage door is closed, there’s an eight inch gap on one side. Hmm…

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.

I’m going to miss you, Lilly.

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.

Honeymoon in WHOville

You never forget that long poem or story you had to memorize for a recital in elementary school. Mine was, “The Owl and the Pussycat” (went to sea, in a beautiful pea green boat…).

So when I stumbled across this little old tea set I thought, “Hey! Why not?”

Thus begins the description for Kitty and Owl, O.L.D.’s (Once-Loved Dolls) No. 86 and 86 1/2. You can see their adoption page HERE. They are the Owl and the Kitty who went to TEA.

My sister will back me up on this: I have been a fan of owls since before they were cool again decades after being cool in the 70’s.

Here’s my largest concentration of owls. The turquoise one is my favorite, given to me by my dear friend Jennifer.

I’ve picked them up at garage sales, thrift stores, clearance aisles…some were given to me by dear friends. They’re sprinkled throughout my house. At last, here was a chance to MAKE an owl! I looked for ideas online, picked out some wools and tweeds, nine different fabrics in all! And made up a pattern.

Owl also comes with a green wool scarf for winter and a flowery hat for when he has tea. It’s not a tea party if there is no bonnet!

“Okay, I see the owl, which would account for the “Whoville” in this post’s title, but where does the “Honeymoon” part come in?” you might ask, for you are canny and wise, and notice such things.

The newly minted Dennis and Jane Agle.

I’ll tell you: My parents were married for 60 wonderful and fruitful years before my father’s passing in 2013. The year they were married (I’ll save you the math) was 1953. My mother’s mom, aka, “Grandma,” made a going away outfit, a Honeymoon outfit one might say.

It was an unusual, striking shade, neither blue nor gray. The fabric itself was something new, my mother recalls her mother saying. How she marveled as she worked on it, for it was said to be non-wrinkling, and was actually living up to its claims.

Not so easy to see the waistband here.

The outfit itself was a classic, exquisite style. The skirt was fitted, almost pencil-style in the front with deep pleats in the back. There was a matching bolero jacket with a large covered button. But my favorite feature of this most exquisite ensemble was the waist-line of the skirt. It was super, super high and the front of the waistband curved gently upward and back down, like the single hump of a camel. My mother has this outfit still.

This skirt is gathered, and this fabric is far from wrinkle-free, but there’s no mistaking that camel-hump, high waistband.

I wore it myself, many a time. I remember longingly looking forward to “Spirit Week” in high school. Longing even more for there to be a 50’s day so that I could proudly wear that flattering, stunning outfit with its glowing bluey-gray. Other’s would walk around in poodle skirts. Not me! I LOVED that thing, and am so grateful – and slightly shocked – that my mother let me borrow it.

So as I worked on Kitty’s skirt, I kept having flashbacks: “I’ve seen this before…” It only took a nano second. That skirt will never be forgot! Over the years in a person’s life they’ll have a favorite piece of clothing. Maybe two or three. One of my son’s, for example, was his Blue’s Clues green on green striped Rugby-style shirt. For me, surely one of them was my mother’s Honeymoon outfit. Hey! I bet it was one of her favorites as well! What do you think…?

Marie Antoinette was adopted by Megan P. of Myton, Utah! A new face! Thank you so much Megan, I hope you enjoy Marie!

I love my parents so very much. I’ve been thinking of them even more than usual this past week as I catch glimpses of the waistband and shade of this skirt that I know so well. For now my parents have had to say goodbye to each other and it hasn’t been easy. After 60 happy years, how could it possibly be? But I know that one day they’ll be together again. I know it with all my heart.

And with that, I leave you! Happy Sunday, you’re my favorite.