A New Book Coming…and I’m Writing It! What It’s About and How to Pre-Order

So, I’m writing a book.  For over a year I have been shopping a proposal to publishers.  I knew that I could self publish at any point, but I have wanted to collaborate with a publisher for many reasons, not the least of which is to tap in to a professional editor’s expertise in helping to make the book  something that will best serve my audience and that will have a viable distribution channel.   One publisher told me that the proposed book was too broad for their niche.  Another publisher told me it was too niche for their broad audience.  Fortunately, like Goldilocks, I found a match that was just right in Down East Books, headquartered in Rockport, Maine (yes, I know the image says Camden, but trust me on this), which is an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield in Maryland.

This book is both in itself, and is about, the realization of dreams.  I learned to read when I was three.  My mother always said I was two but I’m adding a year to that to make up for a possible exaggeration on her part.  I mean, maybe?  But no matter.  I started writing stories at about age five, drawing pictures to go with them.  I remember one in particular was titled, “The Foggy Frog.”  I collected frogs, the toy and figurine type, although I played with real live toads on the regular outdoors on the edge of the southern NJ Pine Barrens where I grew up.  I remember the pictures I drew.  I could recreate them even today.  By the time I was twelve I knew I wanted to publish books of my own.  I was twelve over forty years ago.  In the intervening four decades I had stopped listening to the inner me who wanted to write, make art, play music, and have a creative career.  People who meet me today think I’ve been working in the creative economy my entire life, but it’s only been since 2014 that I’ve worked in fiber art full time.  By the time my new book is published it will be 2020.  I will turn fifty-five years old in 2020.  I want you to hear something loudly and clearly in this:  it is never too late to realize a dream.

The working title of this book is,  Seasons at the Parris House: Heritage Skills for a Contemporary Life.  I have no idea at this moment whether or not that will be the title on the front of my book when it is released in 2020 but it captures the essence of what it is about.  Let me take an excerpt from my proposal to explain the vantage point from which I approach this project:

“When I was thirty five, eighteen years ago, my husband and I moved ourselves and our four then-little sons from the urban/suburban Princeton, NJ area, a region in which we had spent our entire lives, to rural Western Maine.  We went from a 1950s mid century modern cape on a suburban lot to a two hundred year old Federal home and barn in a National Historic District. Our new neighbor across the street had a cow in the backyard, much to our young sons’ amusement.   I was a stay at home mother with a degree in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Delaware. I had, prior to becoming an at-home mom, worked in market research and in procurement and project management for a large defense contracting company on busy Route 1 in NJ.  I didn’t garden, I didn’t hook rugs, I didn’t keep chickens or bees, I had no idea how to can food. Upon arriving to the Parris House, I noticed that our apple trees looked like they needed some attention, but I had no idea what to do. Sometimes I baked. But it seemed as though almost everyone around me in my new home was proficient in at least one heritage skill, whether they were my age or old timers, and I thought, “That’s amazing.  I need to learn these things too.” That was the beginning of my journey of bringing heritage skills into my own life, without a big farm, without a lot of formal training, but rather learning them the way the people around me had learned them: the passing on of knowledge, often inter-generationally, from one human being to another.”

That was my situation upon the realization of one of my most fervent dreams to that point, which had been to move to rural Maine and raise my sons here.  What I know now is that the desire to work with my hands, create something out of nothing, grow and preserve food, keep animals and insects, and “practice heritage skills,” was not unique to me.  In the nearly two decades I have lived here in Maine and collected a new skill set, the yearning for these skills among the general population has only increased, including among people living in urban areas and people with little to no land at all to work with.  I tell people all the time that none of this is rocket science, but they often seem skeptical.  They seem to believe that heritage skills are complicated, mysterious, or beyond their reach.  They are not, and this book is for anyone who wants to make a start toward learning them.

I have always enjoyed the juxtaposition in my own life of living in a two hundred year old home in a National Historic District while always embracing the newest technology I could afford.  At the Parris House we have smart phones, smart lights, and smart thermostats.  This laptop I’m writing on right now, not to mention the fact that I use it to run a business that’s about 90% online, is a technological godsend.  We also have centuries old windows with wavy glass and completely pesticide free growing practices.   I dye wool in pots on top of a vintage gas range…and then sell that wool to anyone literally in the world who wants it via the internet.  You don’t have to live like Laura Ingalls on the prairie to embrace heritage skills, and you don’t have to completely forsake the solid methods of our ancestors to live a contemporary life.  Mix it up.  Make some dreams come true with it all.

The book will take you through the four seasons at the Parris House.  It will take a look at the historical contexts of the place, people who went before us, and lifestyle behind what we do here today.  Each season will have fiber art projects, recipes, growing tips, fun things for you to try yourself.  You do not need a farm.  You do not even need a lawn for some of these projects.   They will require no super specialized equipment, impossible to source ingredients, or secret codes to unlock. They will be simple, but not insult your intelligence.  Each featured project or recipe will result in something valuable, beautiful, and/or delicious but without unnecessary complication.  Many will be starting points or stepping stones to get you on your way to a deeper study of whatever it is you find you are most interested in.

It will have beautiful pictures, because I’m a visual person and I’m going to be taking lots of beautiful pictures for this project.

It will be a working book.   While I hope to make it visually inviting, it is not meant to sit on the coffee table or the shelf.  It is meant to be out and open on your kitchen counter or table, in your craft area, or even outside with you, as a reference and companion for the projects it contains.  Get it dirty, dog ear the pages, use the hell out of it.

For me personally, this book will be a grateful acknowledgment of Maine, of Paris Hill, and of the Parris House.  Without this setting, I would be a different person living a very different life.  That aspect will be strongest to me alone, though, because this book is really written for and focused on you in your place and in your life, be it urban or rural, east coast or west or somewhere in between, in North America or well beyond.

By the time this book is published, we will be gearing up here to offer seasonal quarterly retreats at the Parris House which will provide hands on experiences in fiber art and heritage skills, which will provide more learning opportunities for those who want to expand their making and doing.

Sound interesting?  I was brand-new-author-thrilled when I saw that Rowman & Littlefield had already put up a pre-order page for the book.  You can click on that HERE.   Please remember that publication is not scheduled until 2020.  In the meantime, I’m working hard!

If you would like to keep up to date on everything that’s planned for the next chapter (pun intended), a sign up box for our newsletter is at the bottom of every page of the website.  You will never be spammed.  In fact, the newsletter needs to publish a bit more often (as time allows…or doesn’t…).

For a glimpse of the Parris House homestead, enjoy the pics in the slideshow below.

That’s the big news from here.  Thank you for reading.  – Beth


Why We Hook the Animals We Love

This is my Welsh Corgi, Tru.  (If you really want to get to know her, she has her own Facebook page here.)  As you can see, she was sunbathing this morning while I was putting the finishing touches on the first pattern for the Parris House Hookers’ Circle subscription service, shipping this week.   As I posted on our Facebook page this morning, I am painfully aware that Tru is now about twelve years old, and that most of my time with her is behind us.   I never thought I could love a dog this fiercely until she came in to our lives, but here I am, pondering a post-Tru world even though as of right now, she is still happy, active, and healthy.

For this reason, I have been thinking lately that I need to gather up all the photos I have of her (there are many!), and also sit quietly with her, make a sketch of her sweet face, and hook it.    Now, I have never hooked an animal in a detailed way, the way I want to hook Tru’s image.   I want to capture the glint in her eye that still exists even though I see the encroaching cloudiness of cataracts.  I want to hook the pretty combination of “red” and white and maybe now a little gray that defines her face.  I want to add the teeny tiny white eyelashes and delicate fur in her ears.  I think this project is going to have to be refined and textural and multimedia, but since I can see it, I know I can make it a reality.

Prior to this I have not hooked many animals.  One of the most popular patterns in the shop is “Tesla’s First Snow,” which, rather than a late-in-life portrait, is a depiction of our big orange tabby, Tesla, as a four month old kitten seeing his first snowfall out the window.  After being initially perplexed, he wanted to “catch” the snowflakes as they cascaded down.   I snapped a picture of the scene and the result was this:

As you can see, this is a very primitive rendering of Tesla.  His back is turned to us so that, frankly, I didn’t need to deal with the detail of his face, although that is still true to the photograph.  This was done in 2012.  I learned to hook in 2011.  I was simply not ready to take on the complexities of Tesla’s face!   (In case anyone is wondering, he is named for Nikola Tesla, the scientist/inventor.  This happens when you have four sons who dig science.)

I also hook animals for Beekman 1802, and it is absolutely true that I love these animals I’m depicting.   I actually met Polka Spot back in 2014 on the day Jen and I first presented our work to Josh and Brent.  They kindly sent us on a farm tour with Megan, who was then their artisan coordinator, and we were thrilled to see the baby goats, Bubby the cat, Onder the dog, and, as they say, “every living thing at Beekman farm.”   Bubby passed away since then, and Polka has also “gone to Paris,” but both of them had distinct personalities.  Polka was one of the most regal animals I’ve ever encountered, and it was clear that she took her watch over the goats seriously.  Bubby was just one giant furball of love, demanding our attention while Onder ran in and out of the barn playfully.  Here is the menagerie I hook for Beekman 1802.

Last year I had a major commission for a customer’s beloved Pharaoh Hound.  The story on that is here, and the result is below.

Why are we willing to put so much time and effort in to these portraits of our favorite pets or animals?  Or, if we aren’t artisans ourselves, willing to commission someone else to create them?   I think it’s about the innocence, unconditional love, and nobility of character we so often find in our pets.  I don’t say that to anthropomorphize animals.  As my biologist/ecologist son, James, likes to remind me, “They don’t think the way we do.”   And, of course, he’s right.  They don’t think the way we do.   In fact, it’s impossible for us, really, to get inside their heads.  They are coming from an entirely different reality, biology, instinct than we are.  And yet…it is so easy to make important connections with them, and they with us.  We want to immortalize them in art because we know – we are so painfully aware – that their lifespans are much shorter than we’d like and that our own lives are so much better with them by our sides.

Sometimes they’re exasperating.  Tesla wants to kill my knitting if I don’t put it up and out of the way.  Tru wants to be directly under my feet if I’m preparing chicken for dinner.   Tesla is incapable of having a hairball in any location except on a carpet.  Tru occasionally gets so excited over visitors she pees at their feet.  Yeah.   And the fur.  It’s everywhere.  No vacuum on this planet is its equal.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Robert, shared this picture of his and his girlfriend’s, Tracy’s, cats peering out their apartment window in much the same way Tesla peered out at his first snow about five or six years ago.   They are Valentine and Playdough, respectively, and both are well under a year old.   Just the beginning of another generation’s connection with animals.

I hope you will share pictures of your animals and also pictures of artwork you’ve done inspired by them.  Feel free to tell their stories and what they mean to you.  I look forward to learning all about them.

Happy hooking! – Beth

Tesla one-upping Tru and snagging the sunny spot.


Fourth Annual Paris Hill Hook In & Raffle Rug Draw – Want to Know Who Won? Read On!

Yesterday was the day for our Fourth Annual Paris Hill Hook In, but this year we hosted an extra event that I’m sure made it memorable to all in attendance.  As many of you may know, we have been selling rug raffle tickets for over a year to benefit the Maine Medical Center’s Kidney Transplant Family Assistance Program.  This program assists patients and their families in the transplant process with some of the financial hardships that result from travel, lodging, and other miscellaneous expenses that are incurred.

Two women in our Tuesday hooking group know this process all too well.  Irene Adams and Cindy Kimball (Paws & Claws Hooking) both received new kidneys in the past couple of years, and it was our and their desire to help others on this momentous journey.  You can read more about our project and these wonderful women here in an earlier post, but essentially, they and the Tuesday group created this beautiful traditional-but-with-a-twist hiinkitchent or miss hooked rug as the grand prize.   This took many months to complete, and when I say there is love in every loop, I’m not kidding.   This rug is headed to its new home this week, but more on that in a bit.

Much about our Fourth Annual Hook In was like the previous three.  We had our wonderful vendors, Cherylyn Brubaker of Hooked Treasures in Brunswick, Maine and Kim Dubay of Primitive Pastimes in Gray, Maine providing our attendees with gorgeous goodies related to rug hooking and beyond.  The food was once again absolutely amazing, provided by For the Love of Food and Drink from Kittery, Maine.   Imagine this menu…try not to drool on your keyboard or device, ok?

Breakfast:  pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, GF blueberry muffins, blueberry muffins, cranberry scones, coffee, tea

Lunch: creamy parsnip soup, honey lavender chicken, spinach stuff shells, autumn vegetables, fresh garden salad

Dessert: mixed fruit crisp with fresh whipped cream

Yes.  That’s how we eat at the Paris Hill Hook In, thanks to our able and forever smiling catering company, so if you have an event you need help with, by all means give them a shout.

We had Connie Fletcher of Seven Gables Rug Hooking once again greeting everyone, taking registrations, and selling raffle tickets until the very last moment (and I mean the very last moment).  And once again we also had Ellen Marshall of Two Cats and Dog Hooking registering and beautifully arranging our rug show in the church sanctuary.

Speaking of the First Baptist Church of Paris Hill, it was also again our home for the day.  Many thanks are due to Reverend Mary Beth Caffey for being such a gracious host, giving us a history and context talk on the building and the area, and once more allowing us to ring the centuries old Revere Foundry church bell.

We had so many beautiful rugs in the rug show this year.  I regret that I do not have a record of all of the designers and hookers on each one, but it goes without saying that no design may be reproduced without the designer’s consent, so please be respectful of what you are about to see.  (For all galleries, click on the side arrows to move through the pictures.)

Here are a few pictures of our attendees doing what you do at a hook in – hooking away on their gorgeous projects!  I was pretty busy the entire day and was not able to get as many of these pictures as I would have liked, but if you were there and have some also, please feel free to post them and tag yourself and your friends on our Facebook page!

All of this was great fun, but really, the most magical moments, ones that I will remember forever, surround the rug raffle drawing.  For this drawing we had a very special and much loved guest. Many of you are familiar with Ron Adams as the builder of our extremely popular and solidly made Bear Pond Wood Works hooking frames and accessories.   Many of you may also know that he is Tuesday group member Irene Adams’ husband.  What you may not know is that at 81 years of age, Ron gave Irene the gift of life by donating a kidney to her so that she might be with us for a long time to come.  I am at a loss for words for what this means to us and to everyone who loves Irene.  Ron spoke about kidney donation, about his experience as a donor, and about how you or anyone can become one.  Standing with them was Cindy Kimball, whose kidney came from a non-living donor.  Cindy is also a beloved member of our Tuesday group and our gratitude for her life knows no bounds.   So, please, even if it’s just checking that little “donor” box on your driver’s license, do something to support organ donation and transplant.  I am not ashamed to say that I was overcome with emotion in introducing these three at our event, because truly, they would not have been there with us without organ donation and our day would not have held such joy.

Here are some pics of them leading up to the drawing…



Joanne Kalapinski of Harrison, Maine!!!

I called Joanne shortly after her name was drawn and she was SO excited!  Who can blame her!?  She said to me, “I never win anything!”  I said, “You did today!”  Joanne is a fellow rug hooker who hooks with the Wednesday group at the Painted Mermaid Studio just a few miles from us in South Paris, Maine.  I know this rug will be well loved and has gone to a wonderful home.

We raised approximately $3,300 in this effort.  In this month of giving thanks, yesterday was a monumental reminder of all we have to be thankful for.  Ron asked everyone present at the hook in who had worked on the rug to raise their hands. These women have earned special thanks.  Not all of them were present, but a good many were.   As I said before, that rug was made with love in every loop, and to my Tuesday group hookers who poured out that love so generously, thank you.

Happy gratefulness and happy hooking!

Cindy Kimball with her kidney transplant "Tree of Life" logo rug.
Cindy Kimball with her kidney transplant “Tree of Life” logo rug.