Crafts & Hobbies

How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman

How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman

Have you ever wanted to become a writer and brave the strange and confusing world of trying to sell your work to the publishing industry? Do you feel you might need a refresher course in creating a marketable thriller or romance novel?  If you are curious about improving your writing technique to make your work more compelling, concise, or appealing to publishers, you may benefit from How Not to Write a Novel, a writing guide from Howard Mittlemark and Sandra Newman.  This guide is a compilation of examples of common writing mistakes that can make novels confusing, boring, or unappealing to read.  Humorous and well-organized, this book is both a great educational resource and a good comedic read.

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

book cover for pirate cinema by cory doctorow

Leave it to Cory Doctorow, author, blogger, and technology activist-extraordinaire, to weave a story that successfully blends coming-of-age woes, homelessness, national politics, copyright law, cooking, gadgetry, love, overcoming homophobia, civil disobedience, film-making, mashups, public speaking, the judicial system, beer and coffee brewing, cryptography, and oh so, so much more into a wonderfully geeky, heart-wrenching, page-turning bang-up novel that people of all ages should read.  This book is full of such big, exquisite ideas to learn about that you’ll be Googling your fingers off through the entire story and I mean that in the best way possible.  You will learn reading Pirate Cinema and you will love this as much as you love the characters. 

Instructables

instructables logo

As a long-time user of Instructables, I can attest to the certain charm that comes with being able to find a recipe for bacon-topped caramel cupcakes and directions to build a robot, all in the same place. Instructables is a website born from several creators in the MIT media lab. What started as a project focused purely on engineering prototypes has branched into a website featuring user-generated D.I.Y. projects in a near mind-boggling array of categories. There are projects that range from wood-fire heated hot tubs to a collection of recipes on “What to do with Day Old Bread.” 

 

Web Site Builders

Web Design

When the Web was still new, it was necessary to know how to code in order to create a Web page.  Languages like HTML, CSS, Javascript and more were the tools in your utility belt to build a Web presence.  The truly savvy could (and can) do most of this with nothing more than a plain text editor, though most people turned to programs like Dreamweaver to more easily and quickly assemble entire sites.  Then you had to choose your Web hosting service.  Then you had to FTP your pages to the hosting service. . . it was an involved process.  I haven’t done any professional Web design in close to a decade so I couldn’t tell you what the pros are up to these days, but I’ll tell you what I tell all my training-on-demand students: who cares?  Use a Web site builder service to streamline the process. It will save you time, grief, brain power, and probably some money!

Happy Stitch by Jodie Rackley

Happy Stitch by Jodie Rackley

Local Fredericksburg author and crafter Jodie Rackley helps you stitch up a smile with her book,  Happy Stitch. She stitches her fun designs in her home studio in Fredericksburg, which she shares with her pets, Captain Nibbles and Sleepy Kitty.  The 30 charming and colorful felt and fabric projects in her book are uber cute.

Take some time this summer and stitch up a Monster Face Computer Cover or doodle on a denim skirt.  If your older children are complaining of boredom, try one of the projects with them; for example, the Anytime Ornaments have simple cutting and stitching instructions that an older child can follow with a little guidance. Her instructions are clear, and she uses simple techniques. 

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almon

In Candyfreak, Steve Almond makes the typical chocoholic look like a quitter. Almond doesn’t just enjoy the occasional sweet indulgence. He is enamored with candy, especially chocolate candy bars. This infatuation drives his curiosity about the candy industry. It also compels Almond to wax poetic when describing candy’s taste and texture or lovingly tracing the popularity and disappearance of archaic, often regional, candies, such as Caravelle, Twin Bing, Idaho Spud, and Valomilk.

Throughout Candyfreak, Almond refers to his obsession with candy as a “freak,” arguing that the energy he expends thinking about, describing, hoarding, and consuming candy is not inherently different from the more widely accepted obsessive hobbies, such as sports fandom or extreme collecting: “[W]e don’t choose our freaks, they choose us. I don’t mean this as some kind of hippy dippy aphorism about the power of fate. We may not understand why we freak on a particular food or band or sports team. We may have no conscious control over our allegiances. But they arise from our most sacred fears and desires and, as such, they represent the truest expression of ourselves.”

Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne

Most people know David Byrne as a musician, with the Talking Heads and as a solo artist. In his three-decade career, Byrne always managed to incorporate a diverse collection of international influences in his sound.  In Bicycle Diaries, he has found an equally engaging role as a worldwide cultural critic. The book is much more than a travelogue though. It is a grand celebration of how people live, observed from the seat of a two-wheeler as it whisks through city streets worldwide. It is made up of meditations on art, politics, architecture, and so much more.

When biking through a city, one is more agile than a car, faster than a pedestrian, and taller than anything that isn't a Hum-Vee or on horseback. You see details that others can not, providing a wholly unique perspective of how this particular city works.

Make a Monster by Fiona Goble

Make a Monster by Fiona Goble

Fiona Goble makes a herd of fleece monsters that are cuddly and sweet in Make a Monster. She creates 15 easy-to-make toys out of fleece scraps. As a fabric addict, my goal this year is to use up my scraps, and this book helped. I fell in love with Toby, the sleeping bunny, and I had a scrap of bright yellow fleece in my stash so I made a herd of them to give as gifts.  I love that she gives each toy a name; I think the devilishly red Leo will be my next project.

The sweet monster toys have step-by-step directions with pictures Toby, the Sleeping Bunnyto follow of each step and full-size patterns in the back to copy and use. I love a craft book with color pictures of all the projects, and this one fits the bill. She also has explanations for all the embroidery stitches you will need and rates the difficulty of the sewing--and most projects are quite easy. Some toys have adorable clothes such as shorts and skirts and need a little more sewing experience. She adds a “Cool Idea” to each project where you can give a little twist to make your toy even more unique.

With a few buttons and stitches, you can give your monsters their own personalities!

 

The Knitter's Year: 52 Make-in-a-Week Projects - Quick Gifts and Seasonal Knits by Debbie Bliss

For anyone whose New Year's resolution is to knit more The Knitter's Year: 52 Make-in-a-Week Projects - Quick Gifts and Seasonal Knits by Debbie Bliss offers great inspiration by providing patterns for 52 quick (depending on your skill level) knitting projects.

Bliss offers a project per week, grouped by season. The projects she's chosen are a nice mix of home decor and functional items (pillow cases, chair covers and door stops), clothing (baby cardigan, hat and sandals), accessories (scarves, hats, gloves and bags), and whimsical items (bunny egg cozies, tech gadget covers, Christmas tree decorations and pompom garland). Of course, all projects call for Debbie Bliss yarns, but you could easily substitue a yarn of your choice. However, Bliss's yarns are beautiful and luxurious, so it might be worth a little bit of a splurge to use her line. Since the projects are small you wouldn't have to make a huge investment.

Amy Butler’s Style Stitches

Amy Butler designs fabrics, home accessories, sewing patterns, and stationery goods. She was a contributing editor to Country Living Magazine. Her bag designs in Amy Butler’s Style Stitches include 12 full-size patterns in a bound pocket in the back of the book with 26 simple variations. The bags have fresh color schemes such as her sea foam blue, apricot and her fun pink.

I can’t decide which bag I love the most: the Teardrop Bag, the Cosmo Bag or the Perfectly Pleated Clutch. She rates her designs from easy to the experienced sewer so with basic sewing you can try the easier projects with her complete step-by-step directions and easy-to-follow diagrams.