Picture, say, a scarlet ibis alighting on your dining room table. The flabbergasted wonderment you’d feel is roughly akin to my reaction when an email from Jared Flood appeared in my inbox one utterly normal November day. My first thought was this: That’s it. The Nigerian spammers have found my weakness. I’d better let Brooklyn Tweed know their corporate email has been hacked. Then I opened it anyway. Jared wrote that he was seeking a house writer for Brooklyn Tweed, someone to help with all the different sorts of copy he needs to generate and doesn’t have time to write himself because he is rather busy designing and knitting and photographing gorgeous garments and also making yarn and running a fully fledged business. He thought of me. (!) He also wondered if I’d like to write a longer piece for the BT Winter collection, a knitter’s reflection on winter, in any form I wished to give it. I quickly reviewed the rules for dating, such as I remember them from before I met my husband half a lifetime ago. I waited what I hoped was a seemly 45 minutes before I wrote back YES. I schooled myself to avoid exclamation points.
I’m an editor by trade. Writing is the backbone of my craft and I often do a deal of it for my authors. When I worked on children’s books in New York there was often a gifted illustrator who needed help to shape a cohesive story or a middle-grade fantasy novelist who needed coaxing beyond formulaic plots and stock characters. Lloyd Alexander once accepted my suggestion for a line of repartee, so I was always going to die happy. In my current work, my writers are teachers in the traces and their energies are best spent on the children in their charge, so I polish and enhance their reflections or simply interview them and draft the articles myself. Editors don’t take credit, though. You might see them thanked by the author in a note, but you won’t find their names in the fine print alongside the jacket designer or the photographer who captured the author’s image for the back flap. And I’m very comfortable working offstage.
But I’m trying to push myself a little harder, to keep growing and seeking new possibilities. I don’t want to plough myself under intellectually as I accept the physical and emotional work of motherhood. And human beings need to reach for what might be beyond their grasp in order to learn and grow. So I said yes to Brooklyn Tweed, yes to being a writer with her name on her work. And today you can read a little essay called “Winter Words” in the middle of the new lookbook. I promise I am not at all offended if you huff right past it, slavering for the luscious cables and textured stitches and coastal scenery in the fashion story called Shingle & Copse. I’d do the same. A new Brooklyn Tweed collection is like a land rush. But maybe you’ll page back and read it later on.
Of course, with the ibis on your dining table, after the shock and amazement pass, practical thoughts are going to creep in. What do you do with it now that it’s here? What if it won’t just fly back out the window? What if it voids its capacious bowels all over the important tax documents and your great-grandmother’s linens? Should you feed it? It’s a queer, naked feeling, knowing your words are out standing together under the scrutiny of many thousands of eyes. Let me know what you think of them. Maybe you’ll feel like writing your own origin story. Leave a link in the comments if you do, because stories are good food for humans. They’re how we make and share meaning from the raw stuff of the world. And being a writer is connective — strands of words knit us together across great spans of the globe. A pencil and a knitting needle are nearly the same tool. Cheers, you writers and you knitters, you people of the sticks.