Friday, March 02, 2007

The Friday Night Knitting Club, Kate Jacobs

When I received an email about The Friday Night Knitting Club, my initial reaction was this: Knitting? No thanks. The closet thing I've ever done to knitting was making a latchhook rug picture of a tiger when I was nine. But then I read the synopsis and it sounded like a fantastic story. In fact, I couldn't wait to receive the book and when I got it in the mail, I eagerly dug in.

Often times, you know from page one if the book is going to be good and this was. I think The Friday Night Knitting Club has a broad appeal- no matter what your age is or if you are a knitter or not, you will enjoy the story of Georgia, the owner of a yarn shop and her pre-teen daughter, Dakota. The story centers around the diverse group of women who meet every Friday night for knitting,muffins and much more. Julia Roberts (an avid knitter) is going to produce and star in the movie version so go ahead and imagine her in the role of Georgia, the curly haired yarn store owner. And take a look at the beautiful Walker and Daughter site.

What is it with knitting? Suddenly everywhere I look there are knittinghow-to books, fiction books with knitting, people love to knit! Why is thishobby so popular?

It’s everywhere, isn’t it? People who you don’t think would knit suddenly do. Like movie stars. It’s a good thing, I think, craft coming back intomany of our lives. When I was in my teens, knitting was really something forgrannies, a throwback kind of thing. My own grandmother, Nanny, was trulytalented, and I loved all the sweaters she’d make. They were cool to wear, just not to create. So take the 1980s – when knitting really was going through a cultural slump – and contrast it to now. There’s this amazing convergence of craft and the Internet, folks have made entire careers out ofthe exultation of the domestic (hello Martha!), celebs are taking it up, and, at the same time, the world is such an uncertain place right now.

So there’s a new appreciation for a soothing, comforting skill that can bring people together. It’s some part nostalgia, some part stress relief, some part creative outlet, some part irony – it’s not your granny’s knitting anymore! – and some part of wanting to find community and connection. Not to mention how much we all love natural, homemade things. Made by your own hands? That’s the ultimate.

Julia Roberts is going to be producing and starring in the movie. Amazing.Tell me what happened when you got the call that Julia loved the book? I think she read it before it was even officially out. You must feel like you are dreaming.

It’s cool. Cool but surreal! Honestly, it’s tremendously exciting to hear that Julia Roberts is into the book. But it also feels as though you’re in an optimistic version of The Twilight Zone because it’s so out of the realm of the day-to-day. It’s a delightful extra, a wonderful affirmation.

And,yeah, I’m just as excited as anyone else to sit down with some popcorn and see The Friday Night Knitting Club play out on the screen. So I’m just letting the Hollywood folk do their thing.

The book really tugged at my emotions. I have to tell you that I was crying at the end of it. I don't want to give away the ending but WHY did you do what you did?

That’s a tremendous compliment to say that the novel pulled at your feelings; thank you. And you know, unless a person has been incredibly lucky, life is filled with ups and downs. There are sad moments, frustrating times, situations that feel out of our control. (At least my life has been that way!)

Bad things happen to good people and it’s not about what’s fair. It’s just real. When I write, I listen to my intuition and to the characters. And I feel that the story as written propels some of the people in the novel to make a leap forward. It forces them to confront their hesitations. Sometimes we all need a splash of cold water to shock us into action. At the same time, too, writing can become deeply personal. You’re writing about the characters, but you’re also writing about yourself. And Georgia’s journey was also a way for me to start to work out some very private emotions, even though her story is her own and her specific experience is fictional. I cried, too.

And let me tell you, I DO hear from readers – and I love to get messages at – and there are some people who feel as you do, and others who are glad to see these experiences reflected on the page. I was so pleased to hear from a woman named Martha, who emailed that she “never had anyone else say or even write exactly what I felt - now I don't feel so guilty.”

Another reader, Bobbie, told me that she had had a similar experience but that “life has to go on.” And that’s really how I feel. To me, Georgia is amazing because of how she lives. Her story is beautiful and rich and true and I really love the character.

I adore the character of Dakota and her muffin recipes. Do you bake? If so,what is your favorite thing to bake?

I like to bake, but I go through spurts where I make a lot and then don’t I do it for a while. Plus I have never mastered pie crust – I’m more about dough or batter. When I was a kid, I often made cookies and brownies and cakes. That’s because my mother didn’t make treats – and there’s a running joke in the family about “The Christmas Pie” which gives some idea about how often she made dessert – and she also wouldn’t buy baked goods from the store. So it was up to us to make goodies if we wanted them. And I often did the baking, which is probably because I was the youngest. (i.e. My older siblings tied an apron on me and sent me into the kitchen.)

A chocolate chip cookie recipe remains my specialty, and believe me, I made cookies all the time when I was a kid. And you know what’s funny? Every time I return to my Canadian hometown to visit, one of the first things I do is pull out the butter and the sugar and get down to making cookies. I just don’t feel“home” until I’ve done so.

In January, during the book tour, I was super tired from events but made a batch when I was staying at my brother’s house. My mom phoned and I mentioned that I was just pulling the cookies out of the oven and she replied, “Of course you are. It’s your therapy.” Which, honestly, I’d never really thought about baking in that regard. But I suppose it’s true.

How often do you knit? When did you start? I’m so intimidated by the art of knitting. It looks hard and tough and I’m not sure I have the patience.

Ummm…I’m not the most patient person in the world. I’m also tremendously
clumsy and uncoordinated. Really. So even though my grandmother was a big knitter, my sister is a knitter, my mom is a sewer and she crochets, I'm simply not crafty in the way that they are. Couple that with my teenage suspicions of doing anything domestic -- and my fear that it would impede my goal of writing stories -- and it’s not as though I’m a natural. (And yes, it wasn’t a stretch for me to channel the character of Darwin, who has some issues with the world of knitting.)

But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Knitting isn’t just for the master knitters. It’s for the beginners and the “granny-good” types and everyone in between. That’s why I always say I’m a writer who knits, not a knitter who writes! But it was pretty fantastic when I gave my husband a scarf I had actually made myself. And when I surprised my mom with a dishcloth. (Just great "ta-da!" moments; I felt rather pleased with myself.)

Right now I am slowly working on a baby blanket for a friend.(I say slowly because I’ve had so much work that I’ve had little knitting time recently.) So take heart! I taught myself how to knit, as an adult, from books and websites; my friend Christine is my go-to person when I need help.

And I don’t really aspire to be an awesome knitter like Nanny. I just enjoy the process. It’s very soothing. All of this is to say that yes, Cindy, you can do it! And you might discover, as I did, that you really,really like it!!

When you aren't writing or knitting, what do you like to do?

Hang out with my dog, Baxter, walking him around the neighborhood or tossing tennis balls in the back yard. Spend time with my best friend, Jon, who also happens to be my husband. (A two-fer!) I love to read – right now I’m hesitating to start the new Alice Munro. Her stories are beyond amazing and every time a new collection comes out, I hold onto it for months before I begin reading. Because I hate to get to the end. I also spend a lot of time and energy staying connected to my friends.

I believe strongly in the importance of having a support network – which is one reason why The Friday Night Knitting Club is a story about the power of friendship – and I also know that you can’t have those connections without effort. I want the people in my life to know just how much they mean to me and touching base, even for a quick “thinking of you” chitchat, is important. Finally, I do enjoy a good bout of television, I must say. I’m a sucker for a game show –I just love to see people win! They’re so happy! – and I’m also a huge fanof Project Runway and Top Chef.

Will your next novel include knitting?

Maybe! I can tell you that there will be another novel from me and I’m veryexcited to work on it. But what I can’t tell you just yet is what it’ll be about. The fact is that I simply cannot talk a lot about what I’m trying to write before I get it down on the page.

Tell me all about you. Where have you traveled, what is your favorite book,your favorite movie? Color? Food? Music?

All about me? Hmmm.... Well, I’ve seen many parts of Canada because I drove across the country multiple times to get to university in Ottawa. (Now your question is tweaking memories of running out of gas on the outskirts of Winnipeg…)

I’m originally from British Columbia and so of course I love Vancouver. And I’ve been to the Canadian Rockies a few times. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. I am so not an outdoorsy type – but that kind of natural beauty almost makes you want to sleep outside. (Don’t tell my husband – he’s always suggesting we go camping.)

And I’ve been to various parts of Europe and the UK, including Scotland (which features in The Friday Night Knitting Club), and to Thailand. But my list of places of where I want to go is much, much longer than where I’ve been: It’s long been a goal of mine to go to Macchu Pichu.

And I would very much like to see Australia and New Zealand. Oh, I could go on and on. I’ll stop only because you don’t need me reciting the atlas. I’ve always been a big reader. My very first favorite book was “Barney Beagle” about this dog at a pet store who just wants a home. Don’t we all? Heart wrenching stuff. (Good news, though: Barney does meet the right little boy. Whew. )

What else? “Lives of Girls and Women” by Alice Munro. “When We Were Orphans” by Kazuo Ishiguro. And “So Big” by Edna Ferber. Honestly, I think about that novel fairly often. I read it years ago and it has had a tremendous impact on me, just the themes about pursuing dreams, staying true to your passions, understanding that money doesn’t equal happiness. That’s a wonderful thing, when a story stays with you in that way.

Favorite color is easy: Celadon. Though I do also like Sage, Celery, and Lime. My home office is painted in a shade called “Lazy Caterpillar” which is some combination of the above. I simply like light, yellowy greens. They’re soothing, they go well with my skin tone. But even though I have alot of shirts and sweaters in variations of greens, you’d mainly see a ton of black if you opened my closet. That’s what happens when you live in NewYork for a decade – everything you own is black!

When I moved to SouthernCalifornia, I suddenly noticed that everyone else wears kicky little capris in bright colors and my black outfits made me look as though I was going to a funeral -- or at least considering it. So I compromised. I got black capris. And I’ve settled into the suburbs just fine.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mason Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, a beautiful non-fiction book featuring gorgeous photos, stories and humor. All knitting, all the time! I especially like the PotHolder Loop Rug. This book is sure to inspire you to grab a ball of yarn and needles and get to it. After reading this book and The Friday Night Knitting Club, I would welcome a knitting lesson from Julia Roberts!


Blogger Ruthie Black naked said...
Dear Distressed Jeans:
You must be kin to Norma Jean! Such a great pic.
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