I love to sew. And strangely enough, what I love about sewing are the same things I love about writing. A new piece of fabric laid out flat is a lot like the story in my head, and the pattern is the outline. A cleanly executed seam is akin to a polished, fluent sentence. The garment takes shape in much the way a plot does, piece by piece. Even the language is similar. You start a project. You cut. You edit. You adapt and revise for fit. I learned most of what I know about sewing from my Italian grandmother. A fine seamstress and frustrated designer, she spent most of her professional life working in a garment factory in Newark. And she was a tough taskmaster. She had no compunction about handing a piece back to me, saying, “That's a bum job. Take it apart and start again.” Sometimes she would just hand me the seam ripper. Nothing seemed as daunting as starting over; nothing seemed as painful as taking apart all my hard work. During my search for an agent, many of whom passed on my first project "with regret," I could practically feel Grandma Mary at my elbow, looking over my shoulder and shaking her head. While my book was not exactly “a bum job,” it still wasn’t a good fit. It needed to be picked apart, redesigned, and reworked. So I got to work. And got an agent as a result. Since then, I've completed a second novel and I'm currently at work on my third. It's in the first draft stages, so I'm beginning to piece the story together. So far, it's taking shape nicely. It feels like a fit. But I won't know for sure until it's tried on by my editor, who is very likely to send it back for alterations. Let's just say I'll be keeping that seam ripper handy.
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An earlier version of this post first appeared on Red Room.