Friday, March 16, 2007

Wherein She Starts Stalking Alpaca

The New Jersey Sheep obtained a restraining order which keeps the New Jersey Knitter 300 yards away from them at all time . . . which led the New Jersey Knitter to start stalking alpaca right up the road.
A few years ago I started playing around with a book idea. (Someone Like You which came out in 2005)) I knew it would be about two sisters (I love to write about sisters and big families; probably because I am an only child and my family could fit on a postage stamp!) and that one of the sisters would be a knitwear designer up in Maine who raised sheep and alpaca and had a community of like-minded knitters working with her. It wouldn't be a major plot point (meaning the book wasn't about knitting in any way) but the love of knitting would filter through the plot and help define who Catherine was.
Now I've told you before that I'm an all-or-nothing kind of woman. When I throw myself into a project, I throw myself head first and I don't come up for air until I start seeing that white light beckoning me home. Now how could I write about a woman who raised sheep and alpaca if I didn't learn something about the raising of sheep and alpaca? I remembered seeing signs locally for alpaca farms. I Googled. I discovered I lived practically within walking distance (assuming I was the athletic, energetic type and not the lazy sedentary book-readin' knittin' sloth I am) of a few alpaca farms. (I've already told you that when we first moved to this town it was Sheep Central.) Anyway (how many times can I say anyway??) one thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had a 4" binder filled with information on alpaca breeding, feeding, shearing, spinning, dyeing, knitting, wearing. I learned a wonderful new word -- cria -- and fell totally in love with alpaca.
I read story after story of middle-aged couples who threw aside their normal suburban lives to become alpaca farmers (ranchers?) with nothing more than a dream and some acreage. I started leaving pin-up photos of alpaca all around the house. On the bathroom mirror. On the fridge. On Goldisox's pillow. "We could do this," I told him. "We could sell everything, buy a rundown farmhouse with land, use our 401Ks to buy a pair (or two) of breeding alpaca) and live on the land." (Oh, shades of 1970!) I could see it now: I'd quit getting my hair straightened and colored and became serious and earnest and personally organic. I would grow my own vegetables (assuming I stopped shrieking every time I saw one of those hideous tomato-eating horned monsters that lurked in my veggie garden), pump water from a well while Goldisox chopped our own firewood (my next blog -- no joke, unfotunately) and walked around humming This Land Is Your Land.

No more worrying about deadlines. No more sleepless nights praying somebody out there who isn't related to me actually buys one of my books. (I have a small family, remember? Not too many sales to be had there!) No more days spent praying that my sad and sorry brain would be able to spit out one more story.
I'd be an alpaca farmer!
It was a lovely fantasy while it lasted. I gathered all of my info. We dreamed the dream for a month or two. And then I typed the magic words The End. (Not really. I've never actually typed The End but I've told you that before, haven't I?) No more writing about Catherine the knitwear designer and her merry band.
You see, I'm fickle. Most writers are. We're faithless scoundrels who will abandon our first love the second our new love comes along. I waved a fond farewell to alpaca and started stalking Episcopalians for my next book. (Just Like Heaven which is out now.) I briefly considered converting last year during the writing process but, fortunately for Episcopalians and Anglicans everywhere, I finished the book before I could take the leap.

Right now I'm deep in deadline demetia. I am so close to the end of the book I can taste it but I'm. Not. There. Yet. At this moment I am alternately an aging Rod Stewart-esque rocker, a fancy cake baker, a blue-collar attorney, and an oceanographer. I have a stack of books next to me on how to turn a slab of baked goods into a work of art and have become quite proficient in forcing a blob of fondant into a seamless sheet of sugary goodness.

There are days when I really do love my job.

But every time I see one of those adorable alpaca faces I can't help wondering what it would be like to start all over again doing something completely unexpected before it really is The End.
Once upon a time I wanted to sing backup for Gladys Knight and The Pips. I still do but there are no more Pips and Gladys doesn't really need me. Talk about a dream job.
What's your dream job? Logic and reason be damned! What would you like to be when you grow up?


Blogger georg said...

What I used to want to be was an actress, but I didn't grow up pretty enough to play the lead. nor did I realistically want to wait tables or live in an attic or NYC or LA while trying to get that Big Break. I also thought for a time I'd go homestead in Alaska. But then I found I'm not all that fond of being cold.

These days, I'm not really sure what I'd like to be when I grow up, except breathing.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Linda said...

I also wanted to be an actress and go to Broadway. Even got an audition at Julliards but was too chicken to go. I KNOW.

But, then I wanted to have a sheep farm and raise the sheep for the wool, and spin the wool and knit with the wool and sell the things I made with the wool.... never happened either.
So, now I work in customer service at a chemical company, perform in local plays and knit like a fiend.

But..dreaming is fun, Huh?

10:03 AM  
Blogger Dawn Brocco said...

In another life, I'm a singer - ballads, jazz, not rock, tho I love almost all music, my voice is soft, not powerful.

And I'd be able to whistle. In this life, I torture hubby all the time as I *try* to whistle whatever tune is in my head, as he groans and covers his ears and begs me to stop! But do I? Nope. It's too much fun watching him recoil in horror!

10:10 AM  
Anonymous tanya said...

As cliche as it sounds, I'd love to run a yarn shop. I have all kinds of ideas about how I would "do it different". Barring that I would love to build houses. Or grow things in large quantities. I love the idea of farm life but lived enough of it to know that there is NO WAY I want to do that much work! Still, every time we drive up the Idaho panhandle I daydream about living away from it all and being self-sufficient.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

I live about a half mile or less away from an alpaca farm AND I live in Maine. lol I think my dream job would be to have a yarn / book store. Kind of a combination of knitting and reading! Only problem is I wouldn't sell much because I'd want to read all the books and knit with all the yarn!

12:03 PM  
Blogger georg said...

I have lots of business ideas, but to lazy to capitalize on it. We need a coffee shop called Buns. It must be staffed by good looking young men in tight shirts and something to emphasize tight rears. It must have baked goods too, and a lovely place to just sit and oggle. You know, like men go to Hooters for the wings, women can go for the buns. :)

I've also wanted a coffee shop/bookstore/bar so it could be open 24 hours and just relax in a comfy environment.

12:14 PM  
Blogger monica said...

When I was young, I really just wanted to be a mom, I had the best mom ever. And then when I married we had such trouble having children, I was so depressed. Well we finally had out family and I am a mom, what I always wanted to be and still do. But now I would love for my sister and I to have a baby clothing boutique. She makes beautiful, hand smocked clothing and I would knit sweaters, dresses, hats and booties or socks to match. I just need to convince her that is what she wants to do too when she grows up too, lol

3:23 PM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

An editor.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

OK--I want to own a bookstore. With a built in coffee shop. "Would you like a latte with those love sonnets?" And, of course, some excellent instumental music playing (I have a thing for acoustic guitar) and a fireplace, so I can sit next to it and spin or knit, as the mood takes me. And then I went and married a military man, so we pack up and move every 3 years or so, so....yeah. Not much chance of that happening anytime soon. But I have to admit that being a stay-at-home mom is a lot better than my last job--shelter technician (read pooper-scooper) for my local animal shelter. And much easier on my back, too.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Theresa S. said...

I never really wanted to do anything except work in publishing.

There were those brief flirtations with other careers, and with dreams of architecture or design or the elbow-patch lifestyle on some idyllic ivy-covered campus. But none of that ever held my attention.

I can't seem to stay away from publishing, though, so I might as well just accept my fate. (My doom, some might say!) (That's a joke, people! I actually love my job.)

12:37 PM  

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