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Knitting Stories has arrived!

Posted by Sylvia Olsen on

The book arrived ……………… on Monday! It was a glorious thing to open the box and pick up Knitting Stories. The cover itself is wonderfully tactile—handworkers will have to take a few moments before bringing themselves to open  the pages. . There are photos, knitting designs, stories and information, something for everyone, not necessarily the sort of information you’d think would come in a knitting book but interesting  personal reflections and stories about knitting needles, geometric designs and family.

This is the 16th book I have published and each one is different and has challenged me in a new way.  My latest is always my favourite for a time—until the next one appears and captures my imagination. And each one is a result of an amazing collaboration between many super skilled people. But truly Knitting Stories challenged me  to a much higher  degree and took collaboration to another  level.

I’m getting old now and somewhat wiser. I’ll be 60 in March and I’ve learned some things about myself. I’m learning to write and sometimes my writing isn’t too bad. I love working with people. I’m an artist by nature, one who is preoccupied with creating, using whatever mediums I come across; words, images, designs, yarn, colour, broken dishes, ideas, paper, pencils, fabric, my body, my children. I’m always imagining. I can’t keep my hands still. I’m worse at stilling my mind. Because I don’t want to. I love my relationship between my body, my brain, and my imagination. I can’t wait to wake up so I can put something together and usually that means 4 AM.

I have also learned what I’m not so good at; keeping track of appointments, making money, completing lists, being tidy, doing the business of life (like paying bills on time and remembering which ones I haven’t paid), and technology.

An amazing thing happened in 1999 that allowed me to lead with my strengths and become an author. I met Diane Morriss at SonoNis Press. She convinced me that I could and should write (something I had never tried before) and assured me that I could become published.  She promised me a team—an editor, a book designer, a publisher, and publicist. I just had to be the storyteller. And I was already a storyteller. “Don’t worry,” she said. “You’ll learn how to write.”

You can only imagine what the first manuscript looked like after Ann Featherstone’s (one of Sono Nis’ editors) initial pass. Those were the days of hard copy and red ink. She held the pile of papers close to her chest, “Please don’t be discouraged by what you are about to see,” she said. “This is a really good story. It’s going to be a great book. I love the way you tell stories.” With that she gingerly passed me several hundred pages that were so red it looked like someone had bled all over them – and the truth is, I had.

That day I realized that I had won the lottery. I was gifted a team who would stand with me and work along side me to bring my creations to life and to an audience. What does Malcolm Gladwell say about putting in 10,000 hours before you know how to do something? By now I’ve done  my time but I still need a team more than ever and I love the collaboration it takes to make a book.

The Knitting Stories team was remarkable. I had the big idea to write knitting essays and tell knitting stories and combine them with some of my designs—I was ready to share some of my creations. I knew I needed a few new members for the team and one day while I was waiting to give a reading at the Rossland Library I wandered into the local wool shop and met by chance Barbara Robinson—an amazingly talented technical knitter who agreed to take my patterns and translate them into language knitters could understand. A very big job. Diane wanted my children and me to model the garments. So I convinced my daughters Joni and Heather, my granddaughter, Yetsa, Heather’s husband Cory and my partner Tex to wash up and look good for the camera. Another big job. Peter Lawrence agreed to take the photos and even after I threatened him that  his most important job was to make me look good he wasn’t deterred. An exceptionally big-time job.

Then there is my team of editors, Barbara Pulling, Audrey McClellan and Dawn Loewen. Frances Hunter took the raw material and transformed it into a book—an amazing designer. Diane, an incredibly engaged publisher, never stops working for the book and Nikki Tate, the publicist will find ways to get the book to you.

So when you are enjoying this book, think of a soccer team, or maybe a …. I’m not sure which  team sport makes the most sense  because I can never follow through with these sorts of analogies. All I know for sure is that publishing is a wonderful team activity and I’m privileged to have such great players on my side.

If you are in Sidney on Sunday December 7, I’ll be there signing books at Tanners Books from 1-3 pm.


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  • My husband bought me this book for my birthday last Saturday. I love it!! The stories are inspiring and give me a greater sense of the strength, courage and perseverance of our First Nations women and how they used their wonderful creativity to provide for their families. I’m a constant knitter and now have to decide which amazing knitting pattern to start with. This is a book I will read over and over. Thanks Sylvia!

    bev mason on

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