Triss Stein’s first job, as a librarian in a dozen sharply different Brooklyn communities, inspired this new series about neighborhoods and history. Her small-town youth and urban adult years give her the perfect insider/outsider perspective. But wait! Isn’t today supposed to be a fashion post? Well, keep reading to learn what writing a murder mystery has to do with sewing. Learn more about Triss at her website. -- AP
I am not a crafty person. I’ve kindly been invited by Anastasia (so to speak) to visit her blog anyway, but in fact, I am perhaps a black hole for craft ability. My admiration for people who have those clever hands plus a good eye is endless.
I used to sew, and could make real clothes, but looking back, I don’t think I was very good at it. I realize now I was too impatient to take care of the little details along the way that add up to a professional looking garment. Plus, I don’t think I had the designer’s eye. Sometimes the combination of fabric and style really worked. (I have fond memories of a ribbed cotton orange and yellow caftan with black braid. Well, what can I say? It was the 60’s) A lot of times my work came out a little …odd.
I never uncovered a hidden flair for drawing or painting or pottery or quilting. I just don’t have those clever hands. In fact, I am not even a very good typist.
It’s pretty pathetic. My mother knitted, and my dad could build or fix anything. He spent World War II fixing airplanes! Three of my four grandparents had worked in the garment industry and could sew with expertise, no pattern needed.
What I do now is go to craft fairs for a fun weekend outing. I admire other people’s work, buy distinctive gifts for weddings, anniversaries and new babies and sometimes jewelry for myself. I am a sucker for beautiful textiles – that’s the sewing background, perhaps – and have a large collection of scarves. Oh, yes, and we are running out of shelf space for the hand made pottery.
But wait. I AM a craft person, because I write. My materials are my words instead of that hand-painted silk. My tools are my ideas, my imagination, my research. Also my word processing program. I am old enough to remember when cut and paste meant getting out the scissors and Elmer’s. Typing skills or not, word processing is a miracle.
I do a lot of rewriting and for me, it often feels like carpentry or furniture building. I find the story by writing it, and there’s never much of a blueprint. It’s more like a sketch on a napkin. The process is similar to building a house by starting with the bathroom tiles and the curtains. Then, I have to go back and pour that foundation, get the framework up, make sure the wiring connects. In the mystery game, we call it creating complex characters, building suspense, planting false leads, using subplots to misdirect the reader.
And all the time, I am putting to work the lessons I ignored when I learned to sew. Baste first. Press the seams open as I go. Measure the hem length all around. Reinforce the collars and cuffs. Only I do it with words instead of fabric and my hands are on the keyboard instead of the cutting table and the sewing machine.
In Brooklyn Bones, a crime of the past comes much too close to home. Helping with renovation, Erica Donato’s teen-age daughter Chris finds a skeleton behind a wall in their crumbling Park Slope home. Erica – young widow, over-age history Ph.D candidate, mother of a teen, product of blue-collar Brooklyn – and Chris are both drawn into the mystery when they learn this was an unknown teen-age girl, hidden there within living memory. It’s dangerous research; there are people who know the whole story and will stop at nothing to make sure it stays buried forever.