Friday, May 24, 2013

What, Oh, What Has Become of Quilting Humor? A Tiny* Rant

You know, when I was starting out in this business, being a quilting humorist meant something. We were part of a long tradition of valiant crafters who stood as the gadflies of a world full of self-important ninnies, and we took pride in our work. And back then you couldn't just wake up one morning and say, "Hey! I think I'll start writing various obscenities scattered among mock tutorials for how to free motion quilt during oral sex." No, we trained. We apprenticed. We put in hours of reading. We lifted weights. We drank ourselves into oblivion fortnightly. We wrestled Mexican bears. We learned Tuvan throat singing. We had affairs with politicians (local, usually). We paid our dues and honed our craft and bribed the appropriate individuals.

And what did we write about? Zombies, mostly, but there was other stuff too. And it was good.

But today? Anybody with an iPad and an account on can create so-called "humor" and put it out on Facebook for everybody and their Uncle Ferdinand to share. Do you have any idea how often someone has written "A Fat Quarter Is Not A Body Part" in the last year and thought it was a stone riot? Right now, there is a blogger somewhere typing, "Oh, golly I just have SO much fabric...I can't find any of my children...!! Haha!"and she has 2700 followers and a book deal.

The next time you are shopping for quilting humor, ask yourself: do I want to consume shoddy, tossed-off, mass-produced, my-husband-will-kill-me-if-I-buy-any-more-fabric type humor? Or do I want carefully crafted, professional humor with just the right amount of penis jokes and plenty of zombies?

Please—do your part to support the highly endangered quilting humorist. Rumor has it there is only one left, and she's running out of tequila.

*and totally facetious

Friday, May 17, 2013

I won't be seeing you at Quilt Market. Here's why.

A few weeks ago, I put the last corrections onto the PDFs that I create for the layout of Generation Q and uploaded them to the printer. I then gave the final approval for those pages and got the word from our technical service representative that the magazine was going to plate. I had finished my fifth issue, and it was a good one. It was also my last.

As of now, I am no longer the creative director of GenQ. I made this decision around Christmastime, and gave my official notice at the end of January (though it had been made known to Jake and Melissa in less formal ways a few weeks earlier). I said that I would see them through the next issue and I also agreed to continue writing my column plus two other uncredited pieces that I have been writing for each issue so far, and I agreed to continue maintaining the website.

It is very important for me to emphasize that I am not leaving that role at GenQ because I was unhappy with GenQ, but because I was feeling a desperate need to pursue my own creative goals. Being a part of the creation of GenQ has been an amazing ride, and I have accomplished things I never thought I could do.  I have no formal training in graphic design. I once taught myself just enough Quark Xpress to layout a simple book, and later, as the assistant editor of a very small, local magazine, I learned some InDesign just by putting things into the template our graphic designer (the boss's son) had already set up. I learned just enough to occasionally design some ads, and later designed a logo and more ads for a friend's business. Then I didn't touch it for about three or four years. Taking on the design and layout, with no help, of an entire publication with only that much experience in my pocket was like deciding to ski down the double black diamond trail after having sledded down a backyard hill on a lunch tray a few times. It felt reckless and stupid. But I was all we had.

As a start-up, we simply couldn't afford a real graphic artist, and though nobody knew I had any experience at all when we started and I could have kept my mouth shut, I offered to try my hand at working up a logo. I had it down within just a couple days, and it was so much fun. But I still assumed that somehow they would find a way to bring on a real graphic designer for the first print issue, and I also assumed that the first print issue was a lot farther off that it actually turned out to be. Less than a year after we launched the web site, we were planning the first issue. And, by default, I was going to have to put it together.

This was terrifying. I don't now how many times I sat with my husband, my head in my hands, saying, "I can't do this. They think I can do this but I can't. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm a writer, not an artist. I don't even know how to number the damn pages or make sure the text all lines up at the bottom. They're depending on me and they won't listen when I say I can't do it and now I'm going to have to fail and I hate that." I was so upset and so convinced that I was going to let everybody down.

But I didn't. I did it, and it was good, and then I did it four more times, and I loved doing it; I really did. Every time I finished designing an article, I felt exhilarated, and I still flip through the pages of all the past issues and give myself little secret pats on the back. That why this decision was so incredibly hard for me. I'm not giving up something I hate. I'm giving up something I love so that I can have the freedom to pursue other things that I love even more. Designing GenQ made me realize, as almost nothing has before, that I really can do anything I want, even if I don't already know how, and so I knew I needed to start doing all those things I've been wanting to do, or time would surely run out and I'd regret never having done them.

And yes, I am sure that my brother's illness and death had a lot to do with this decision, though it didn't feel consciously so at the time. It may be a cliche, but you truly never know how much time you have.

As proud as I am of what I have done for GenQ, in my heart I do not feel that magazine graphic design is what I am meant to do. It turned out that I was okay at it (considering my experience) but I knew that I would probably never be great. I also knew that even though I loved the work, there is work I love more, and that is writing. I cannot remember a time when I didn't want to be a writer or when I wasn't writing something, even if it was doggerel. When Quilter's Home died, I took that as my signal to start doing several things that I had wanted to pursue: write a novel, expand the blog, and eventually start teaching and lecturing, all of which went on the back burner when they asked me to join GenQ. Since then, I have discovered even more things I want to do and write and create, and I have learned that the work of designing GenQ takes up so much of my creative energy that I have very little left over for other pursuits.

In other words, I want to make my focus a creative world that is entirely my own. And to do that, to really go for all of that, I need time and freedom. And so for months I cried big, copious tears because I knew in my heart I was going to have to step aside from GenQ.

I will forever be grateful and loyal to Jake and Melissa for all they have done for me. From giving me my first humor column to entrusting me with the look and feel of their new magazine, they have given me some of the most wonderful opportunities of my life. I am forever in their debt and am even more so now as they accepted my decision with such grace and kindness and have allowed me to remain on staff in a much-reduced capacity. I am also grateful to the rest of the GenQ staff: Scott, Vicki, and Tracy for all their understanding and support. If you have become a GenQ reader through me, stick around. My column will continue and, who knows? You may see my by-line on other articles and projects in the future.

I am really looking forward to the next phase of my life, but I'm also completely terrified. The last few weeks have been hard as I've been second guessing my decision and wondering if perhaps my prime has already passed. All I can do is forge ahead, and hope that the chance I've taken is the right one.

Monday, May 13, 2013


On Saturday, I wheedled and begged and got my husband to drive me into Baltimore so I could attend the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo at the convention center. My youngest daughter wanted to see the U.S.S. Constellation and the U.S.S. Torsk, which are both docked in the harbor there, and my oldest daughter claimed she wanted to come to the quilt show with me. Yeah, right, kid. I believe that. Bet you ten bucks you head off with your dad and your sister at the last minute. No, Mom! I want to see quilts with you!

Easiest ten bucks I ever made.

Part of my wheedling was to get us there as early as possible because I was hoping to avoid standing in line for tickets. So, when I got there I walked right up and got my wrist thingy without waiting, feeling all proud of myself for the result of my superior nagging skills, but then later I realized there just weren't that many people there. I talked to some of the vendors and they all said that every one of these shows they had been to had been successful for them, except this one, and they all seemed to think it was because Baltimore is scary.

Really? Baltimore is scary? I can't remember ever feeling scared in Baltimore. I realize there is some very serious crime in Baltimore, and the politicians are just like evil Disney rodents in suits, but downtown? At the Inner Harbor? It's all Cheesecake Factory and Hard Rock Cafe and Orioles games. It's full of kid stuff: The National Aquarium, The Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery, The Museum of the American Crack Whore. All wholesome, family-oriented stuff. I guess people thought Omar Epps was going to jump out from behind a recycling bin and pop a cap in their ass, like that happens all the time in broad daylight in the most touristy part of town. That's right: Charm City, motherfuckers.

Still, it meant that I didn't have to shove little old ladies out of the way to see anything. I don't know if the show is usually larger in other places, and when it is not so close to Market, but there honestly wasn't much. Maybe I only say that because I'm now used to Market, which is freakishly huge. But at Market, I can't buy anything, which is more frustrating than you can possibly imagine. Here, I could buy stuff, but there just wasn't that much that I wanted. If I wanted novelty fabrics or batiks, well then, SCORE, but not so much for the stuff I like. One vendor did have some bolts of Echino, which I've never had and always wanted, but it was just so expensive, and he looked cranky. I didn't want to bother him. Despite my shyness, I do like chatting with the vendors, and the ones who glare at me just seem like they wouldn't be up for meaningless banter and I can't bring myself to approach them. Yes, I'm insane.

I did get a few things, though.

There were also several quilts on display, and since Harper bailed on me, I had no one who could appreciate that I actually know some of the people whose work was featured there.

There was Lisa:

And Lisa again:

And Ebony Love:

And okay, maybe I don't technically "know" Victoria Findlay Wolfe, because if I saw her I wouldn't go up to her and hug her the way I would with Ebony or tackle her and give her noogies the way I would with Lisa, but I have exchanged business-related emails with her! And she seemed to find me mildly amusing, so I'm sure I'm in her will by now.

And there was one quilt on display (and no, I'm not going to show it, though I did take several pictures) that was just...bad. Badly pieced and badly quilted. And this was not one from a local guild or anything, which I would have forgiven, but one from the Faculty Showcase. I was very surprised to see something so poorly done on display, but I wondered if anyone else was bothered by it, or if I've just become really snotty and picky. Does there come a point where, if you are a famous enough personality, the quality of your work doesn't matter to anyone? I'm all about embracing mistakes, and I have no problem holding up one of my quilts and pointing out its flaws, but I couldn't put that same quilt in a showcase alongside others where people had clearly, you know, tried to make them look good. I have part of a quilt next to me as I'm typing, and it's a quilt that might maybe possibly be shown in a book next year, and I am trying SO HARD to make it good enough to stand alongside quilts from other, less spastic quilters. If I were famous, would I not care so much, because I'd know that people would accept whatever shit I produced just because it had my name on it? Or does there come a point where you get so busy, you can't take the time to produce quality work anymore? Do they have to rely on stunt sewers and just accept whatever they produce, because they're too busy being stalked on Facebook to do all that sewing themselves? This strange world I have found myself in fascinates me.

Having said that, I have made a major change in my place in this strange world and I'll tell you all about that later this week. If I'm not killed and eaten on the mean, mean streets of Baltimore first.