Today, as well as the usual chores – cooking, cleaning, watering the veggies etc, I have been doing two particular things.
The main task of the day has been to read through the 2nd of the three novels currently with my publisher, Crossway, to prepare a ‘glossary of terms’ for the copy-editor to add in at the end. This is necessary because the novel is set in medieval England, so some of the words in it – glebe, extern, villein, frater, reredorter for example – are not in everyday use and are likely to be unfamiliar, especially in the US where it will be published.
A long time passes between submitting a manuscript and getting it to the copy-editing stage, and several more months will pass before the time comes for it to be published. This book, called The Hour Before Dawn, will be out in January 2012 and is part of The Hawk and the Dove series.
[The Hour Before Dawn is the one with your dedication in, Jeannie :0) ]
The second chunky task of the day was to alter three petticoats. I was slightly changing the necks because they are a bit high. I don’t know why but I have a particular aversion to anything tight round my throat – I can’t bear cap strings and bonnet-strings at all. The dresses I’ve had made for me I totally love in every respect except that when the high necks pull against my throat it triggers this aversion. So I’ve slightly enlarged the necks. And now the petticoats show a little sometimes, so I’ve altered those too. I am not an enthusiast for visible underwear!
The new hem to the neck passes across the shoulder seam of course, so in sewing there comes a bulky bit where the needle has to stitch through that seam twice folded as the hem crosses it, if you can imagine what I mean. What I find is that if I am sewing fast as I cross that lumpy bit, the machine just goes mental, running on the spot and convinced it can’t do it and then seizing up completely. To get past the hiccup it’s necessary to be sewing slow. As a bomb disposal expert once said: “Walk towards the problem slowly” – a good maxim for anybody’s crises!
Sewing slowly I can ease the seam along, and sew the hem with no difficulty at all.
Sewing, like all manual tasks, is an opportunity for thoughts to germinate. The Hour Before Dawn is part of a trilogy that looks at people passing through transition, struggling to understand themselves and each other and assimilate change. Though it is set in a medieval monastery, it explores many of the life issues and family problems that modern people in the everyday world experience – forgiveness, trying to see the other person’s point of view, struggling to remain faithful to our calling, discovering what that calling might be – sometimes slowly and painfully.
It occurred to me as I was sewing and thinking about the characters in my story getting to grips with the adversities life had thrown at them, that helping each other through the traumas and difficulties which every now and then are part of ordinary life for all of us, is quite similar to easing that hem through the machine as it passes over the shoulder seam. Life goes along smoothly for a while, and then it hits a lump. When it does, if you go at it with all guns blazing you just bring the whole thing to a grinding halt, seize up completely. But if you ease it along slowly and gently, mindful and careful, not rushing, going slow, you get past it ok, and come through to the other side, and things smooth out again.
That’s what I thought.
And I apologise, my friends, if it sounds like a trite diary column from a women’s magazine in the 1930s….