Drop-Dead Easy Knits Giveaway: We have a Winner!

Sep 28

wiinnerThanks to all who entered my giveaway contest. It was fun to see what favorites rose to the top. I think there are going to be a lot of Drop-Dead Easy Knits projects being cast on soon! And the winner is…


Kitty! Check your email for my request to get your address!


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A Book Review and Giveaway: Drop-Dead Easy Knits

Sep 23

drop-dead-easyIn less than five words, my review goes something like this:

You need this book.

Ok, so you probably know that Gale and I teach together regularly, and I’m pals with the book’s two other co-authors Kirsten and MaryLou, too (I like to surround myself with smart, talented people!), so you might think there is no way I can give an unbiased review of Drop-Dead Easy Knits. I’m going to be honest with you, people.

The patterns are insta-classics!

The quality and timelessness of the patterns reminds me of some of my favorite knitting books: Weekend Knitting and Last Minute Knitted Gifts come to mind. Books I turn to again and again, not only for the great patterns, but because the books themselves are beautiful.

That’s the deal with Drop-Dead Easy Knits: wearable patterns you can knit while slightly distracted by photo by Gale Zuckerfriends or food or wine or movies…what the Mason-Dixon duo have dubbed #knittingbelowonesSkillLevel, with brilliant warnings when you have to pay attention. Gale shot the gorgeous images, and the writing is funny, smart, and just plain companionable. Which makes sense. The book idea grew out of conversation when the authors were hanging out together, well, knitting!

I’m lucky enough to have two copies in my possession, and I want to share. If you’d like to win a copy, here’s what you do:

  1. Hop over to the Ravelry book page and add it to your favorites.
  2. Peruse the patterns and “favorite” your top three.
  3. Come back here (I’ll be waiting) and tell me in the comments what you can’t wait to knit from the book.

The contest will close at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 26. One lucky winner will get their own copy!

I’ve got a Camurac Cardigan in progress (just finishing work left to do…hoping to wear it at Rhinebeck), and tomorrow I’m picking up yarn to make the Keynote Pullover and Glama Wrap. What’s on your list?

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Book Review and Give Away

Oct 31

One of my favorite spaces online is Crystal Moody’s Year of Creative Habits. Crystal’s posts are thoughtful, educational, inspiring. Her FaceBook group is one of only a few in which I find myself actively participating–she’s created an encouraging space for fellow creative folks.

A few months back, Crystal sent me an extra copy of Chris Guillebeau’s The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest that will Bring Purpose to Your Life. I read it as I ate breakfast each morning–it’s easy enough to pick up and put down when you want something to read for a short while. I found myself inspired by the variety of quests he shares, his own included. The book is less of a blueprint (because your quest won’t be the same as the quests in the book), and more of an encouragement to live the damn life you crave, even if that means doing something a bit off the map.

I’m a woman who loves a project. I enjoy testing my ability to do something for a sustained period, to challenge what I think I can do and push through to what I can actually do. Guillebeau’s book reminded me: do that more.

To build on the creative spirit and generosity that prompted Crystal to send me the book, I’d like to pass it along to one of you, my dear readers, with the condition that after you read it, you do the same.

If you’re interested, leave a comment telling me about a quest you’ve undertaken or long to undertake. Next Wednesday I’ll randomly pick a name and mail the book to you next Friday.

ETA: Kym is the book winner! Thanks to all who left comments–your quests are terrific!

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Sophie’s House of Cards: a Review and Contest

Sep 26

This summer Sharon Oard Warner emailed to see if I’d be interested in reading an advance copy of her new novel Sophie’s House of Cards. I’ve known Sharon since 2003 when I took a workshop with her at Iowa’s summer writing festival. She’s responsible for my decision to go to graduate school and for my eventual move to New Mexico. I’m fortunate to have studied with her, and I remain grateful for her guidance as my dissertation chair.

So, yeah, when Sharon, a wonderful teacher and even more terrific human, asks anything of me, I say “yes”!

It doesn’t hurt that I love her writing. She doesn’t shy away from hard ideas, and she is a writer to study if you’re interested in a model for crafting flawed characters that resonate with the reader.

I just posted my review on GoodReads, which I’ll add here in case you don’t feel like clicking:

In her second novel Sophie’s House of Cards, Sharon Oard Warner tackles tough questions, just as she has in her debut novel Deep in the Heart: How do we allow loved ones to live their lives as they feel is right, even when we disagree? How do we handle betrayal? What does it mean to be a family?

As in her first novel, the characters in Sophie’s House of Cards are individuals, depicted with authority, leaving the reader confident that they had rich, complex lives before the story opens, and will continue to do so long after the book ends. Even minor characters in the novel are three-dimensional and might warrant having their stories told, too.

The story follows three women as they grow to understand how their lives entwine through love and betrayal. Warner renders not only the women with care and precision, but also the men who complete and complicate ideas about love, betrayal, and family.

Set in New Mexico, the novel brims with details that let the reader almost smell pinon wood in the kiva and Hatch chile peppers being roasted. The narrative structure—a tarot card reading—adds layers of meaning to the story, reminding the reader that even if fortune and destiny are at play in our lives, we can’t help but to be flawed. Warner allows us to see the beauty in our flaws, which may be the greatest gift of the novel.

Want to read the novel? Of course you do! Lucky for you, there’s a give away contest going on right now. Hop on over for your chance to win a copy of Sophie’s House of Cards and a set of tarot cards! Don’t want to put yourself in the hands of Fortune? Order your copy here.

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Emma Jean: a Review

Mar 13

EJLet me start by saying I’ve studied with Charlotte Rains Dixon and think highly of her. Perhaps our relationship will color my review, but I’m going to imagine it won’t.

Notice the photo: it was a Sunday night, my favorite night for a long bubbly soak. Notice the book: Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior. I’m here to tell you that a soak (or a blanket on the beach, or a cozy chair by the fire) is the perfect setting for reading this delightful novel. I want, in fact, to call it a romance novel, because I believe it is. Not a romance between a couple, although there is that in spades, but a romance between the heroine and herself. She faces the truth that her life is not what she imagined it to be, and she struggles with that truth until she reaches an understanding of what it is she actually wants from life and how close she is to having that authentic experience she craves. And learns to love herself and her life in a new way during her journey.

Dixon writes with a voice that is fun to read, and Emma Jean is so flawed as a person that I can’t help but adore her. Here’s an excerpt from my GoodReads review:

 I want to crawl into the pages of the novel and be the friend she’s desperate to find. Emma Jean is a seeker. She’s seeking love, happiness, enlightenment, recognition, connection. She’s seeking to understand what it means to be a 48-year-old woman who no longer recognizes her life. Having found my own life unrecognizable at times, I related to her.

While at times the pace feels rushed, I never once believed the author was not in control. In fact, after finishing the book, it occurred to me that the pacing changes reflect Emma Jean’s own changes in thinking…the moments when she feels a bit wild with trying so hard to understand, and the moments when she sinks into what life has handed her.

I could not put the book down as I read the last 100 pages. I confess to my own bad behavior in ignoring the world for an afternoon so I could see what would become of Emma Jean.

Want to know?

She becomes even more endearing.

I’ll say it again.

I adore Emma Jean. Her gumption, her hope, her vulnerability.

You probably will, too.

Charlotte Rains Dixon will make a guest appearance at PoMo Golightly soon. In the meantime, give yourself a few hours of pleasure and spend it with Emma Jean!

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A Checklist, Some Meth, a Ghost, and a Dozen Eggs

Jan 23

Ahh, winter break. That delightful time of year when I gorge on random reading. I start back to teaching tomorrow, and before I get bogged down in reading for my classes, I want to share the fun books I’ve been savoring.  Well, the first isn’t so much fun as interesting. The rest are fun in a sad sort of way. Ahem.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande was loaned to me by a colleague. The author makes an argument for the simple tool long used in aviation: a checklist. He applies using checklists to the medical profession, and I was astounded by the results. Rae of Rae Would Rip (okay, she doesn’t actually write said blog, but she should, and I like to pretend she does) is a health care professional, and she confirmed the results shared in the book. While the concept is simple and elegant, the book could be an article and remain persuasive. I’m considering how I can use this in my life and with my students.

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell is an excellent read. I saw the movie last year, and it was one of my favorites of the year. The novel is short, but the heroine remains with you for a long time. She is everything I’d want my daughter to admire, as opposed to some of the, how shall I say it?, more reliant-on-others heroines that are so popular. Ree is gutsy and determined without being a cliche. Woodrell’s prose is engrossing, despite a few over-written passages. I especially admire his development of the community; as awful as a meth-producing community may be, Woodrell makes the reader believe in the hierarchy and caring (of sorts) among the group. Why read it if the movie is so good? Ree’s character is more fully developed in the novel. A great book to read with older kids, too.

Certainly you’ve read “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, right? If your high school or college English teachers didn’t thrill you with it, the link is to a full-text pdf of the story. It’s a classic. But I didn’t connect the short story to The Haunting of Hill House when I grabbed it from the town library. Only after Mona mentioned how much she enjoyed Shirley Jackson did I piece it together. Jackson’s symbolism speaks to a post World War II world and remains spooky and relevant. So, the novel. It’s the story of a group of disparate folks who gather at Hill House, a big mess of a mansion, to see if they can get in touch with any supernatural activity going on there. The novel is third person, closest to Eleanor, an early-30s unmarried woman who has spent most of her life timid and caring for others. Oh, boy! Does it all unravel once they’re in the mansion. Don’t read this one if you’re home alone!

Last night, while I silently bemoaned the football that was preventing my Sunday-night Downton Abbey fix, I finished David Benioff’s City of Thieves. Benioff is a screen writer (read the interview linked in the last sentence. He’s done some cool work!), which I wasn’t surprised to learn after I finished the novel. It’s a cinematic reading experience, with a just-right amount of detail. Here’s what I wrote about it on Goodreads:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the two forms most story takes: a stranger came to town or a (wo)man went on a journey. Randomly selecting this novel from my library’s bookshelves seems fortuitous in light of my recent thoughts. City of Thieves is set in WWII Russia. Two men, unlikely candidates for friendship, get thrown together to undertake a quest, the failure of which would result in their certain starvation. This is a first-person narrative with the narrative device of the protagonist’s grandson, David, asking about life during WWII. The narrative device may be the novel’s only mis-step, but a minor one at that. The writing is sharp and humorous, making the awful moments more cutting. I may read this with my students the next time I teach my war-themed composition class.

What are you reading this week?

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