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Thursday, June 28, 2012


Today we welcome back Radine Trees Nehring to Book Club Friday. For many years Radine's magazine and newspaper features and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about the world near her Arkansas home. Now her "Something to Die For" mysteries continue inviting readers into the Ozarks with a blend of travel adventures and down-home amateur sleuthing by active retirees Carrie McCrite and Henry King. Radine's awards include a Macavity nomination, "Best Mystery" from OWFI, the Arkansas Governor's Award for best writing about the state, and the 2010 Silver Falchion from Killer Nashville. Last year she was chosen as an inductee into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Learn more about Radine and her books at her website

Radine is offering a copy of A Fair to Die For to one of our readers who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP

By the Art of Your Mind and Hands

As far back as I can remember, I've admired the results of the crafter's art.

I want to be like you -- I really, really do.

But the work of talented crafters is marvelously executed, elicits gasps of admiration, and is SALEABLE--should any real crafter want to give up her or his beautiful work.

My playmates' mothers sewed, knitted, crocheted while I watched, wondering how my friends could possibly be so casual about what was being produced. I'd have happily worn the tie-under-the-chin knitted hat with it's floppy top tassel.

I did create stuff with my own hands. I had no doll house, so I used sticks to outline rooms on the conveniently threadbare rug of my bedroom, furnishing doll-sized rooms with bits and pieces of family discards that I colored with crayons and shaped into furniture. (Small boxes and spools were special treasures.)

After high school my father decreed secretarial school, not college, but instead I found a job, and eventually managed a year and a half of dorm life.  Many girls there knitted, so I eagerly started on a pair of navy blue socks for my boyfriend. I got as far as half of a lumpy, uneven cuff  before I put yarn, needles, and lump in a drawer, thinking I could always perfect the art of knitting later. ( Many years beyond college I threw the sock cuff and dangling yarn ends into the trash. It took me a while to admit I wasn't a knitter.)

After marriage I returned to college on evenings and weekends. My interest was art, and pottery classes a favorite.  I loved the feel of clay coming alive under my hands and, on the spinning wheel, rising into a bowl or vase. I am pleased (sort of) with pots I made. But they'd never win a prize in an exhibition.
Sometimes out of necessity, but most of the time seeking creative outlet, I've cut and sewed, woven and painted.  Results were okay for home display. No prizes anywhere else.

Alas. Crafting with any real skill remains a dream.

So . . . I have now compensated with an explosion of craft fervor.  I set my latest mystery novel at one of the largest (real) craft fairs in the United States.  The War Eagle Craft Fair in Northwest Arkansas was founded in 1954, and currently draws up to two-hundred thousand visitors over its fall run. (October 18-21 this year.)  Crafters and visitors come from all over the United States.  My husband and I have been purchasing visitors many times.

In my imagination, one of the stars of my on-going mystery series has been accepted as an exhibitor at the War Eagle Fair "this year."  Shirley Booth is selling her baby quilts and Baby Cuddlys (name trade marked by Shirley).  Helpers include her best friend, Carrie McCrite, amateur sleuth, and Carrie's husband, Henry King, a retired Kansas City Police Major.  What could go wrong-go wrong-go wrong?

Well, I'll leave that to your imagination and future reading.  BUT, vicariously, I have at last been a real part of a real craft fair, sharing in Shirley's art, enjoying Carrie's selling experiences and interaction with other crafters.  (Even if some might be killers.)

And . . . and . . . the owner of our nearest independent bookstore (Trolley Line, in Rogers, Arkansas) gave me part of her child-oriented window display after Christmas last year!  It was a "Fold and Go" natural wood doll house, which she found at a thrift shop and acquired for $4.50. 

Ah. So I've taken bits of me-time from writing and promoting to repair this extra-tiny doll house and "craft" its furnishings. For example:  The kitchen stove is a tiny block of wood.  Notebook paper re-enforcements are burners, glued-on sequins became control knobs. The oven handle is a bit of bead.  In the bedrooms, bed covers and bolsters were cut from old dress gloves.  Curtains came from used dryer sheets.  You get the idea.

I'm loving every minute of my crafting experience!

Radine, as crafty as I am, I never could master the potter’s wheel. So kudos to you! Readers, if you’d like a chance to win a copy of A Fair to Die For, post a comment. Don't forget to check back on Sunday to see if you're the winner. -- AP


Di Eats the Elephant said...

Fascinating! I want to go to the NW Arkansas crafters fair now, but 200,000 people in three days! OMG, the competition for parking, sleeping, eating, and walking space (as well as shade perhaps) must be at a premium. Though I am sure that Oct 18-21 is a beautiful time of year, so maybe it's the best time to go. I love quilting, but like you, Radine, I won't be selling my things anytime soon. I will say I think that some of them are better than my piano playing, tho.

jenny milchman said...

I'm with you, Radine. Have such admiration for all of that. However, the things you do are pretty admirable, too :) So nice to see you on Lois' site!

traveler said...

What a lovely and interesting post. Your novel sounds captivating and being creative is a bonus. Best wishes.

NoraA said...

I've got two left hands when it comes to doing anything crafty. I did learn to sew well enough to fix a button and hem a skirt or pair of pants. What I did love to do was sketch and paint. When I was 15 I actually got to attend a summer arts class at Brooklyn College. I took charcoal one half of the summer and oil painting the second half.

I even had a Jon Neghi (spelling) learn to draw set and still have the book and some soft charcoals in my desk.
I enjoy visiting craft fairs and enjoy seeing the works of truly gifted individuals.

Anonymous said...

200,000 is a lot of people, I can just barely get hubby to go to a movie because of the crowds. It sounds awesome. Looking forward to reading you story.

Anonymous said...

200,000 people is like 199,998 too many for me and my husband, we'd both rather stay home and read! I do crochet, knit and tat and enjoy that as a diversion to my reading!

Radine said...

Actually, the number of attendants isn't that noticeable, especially if you attend on a Thursday or Sunday. We went Thursday when I was beginning the novel, and had no trouble at all. Over the years they have learned to manage the crowds beautifully. The county sheriff's dept. handles traffic, there are huge parking lots all around, the fair grounds are large and well organized. And, you're right, fall color is usually at peak. (Believe me, John Nehring and I are no fonder of huge crowds than anyone else here!) The crafts are wonderful, all those accepted are judged--no imported schlock--and everyone is so HAPPY. Some groups coming together even dress alike. I've seen huge over-decorated straw hats, matching t-shirts, and so on.

I don't know about accommodations since I live in the N. W. Arkansas area. If you want to visit, maybe you could reserve a room fairly soon? I'll be there much of the time, by the way, signing copies of A FAIR TO DIE FOR, which the fair is selling.

Bobbie said...

Went once but not during the big event, just wanted to see the beautiful mill. How grand that they are selling your book then!!

Anonymous said...

Wow...I can't imagine that many people attending a craft fair, although our local one--especially gearing up for Christmas--is well attended. But what a wonderful opportunity for crafters as well as for mystery writers. Ideas for all things must abound!

Radine said...

The mill itself has wonderful things to buy. It is a working mill and they sell many flours, grains, and mixes. I use their biscuit mix, cornbread mix, and pancake flour, plus a few other things.

Stephen L. Brayton said...

Sounds like you've had a full and fulfilling life. It's always interesting reading about authors not only for the stories they write, but the stories they tell.