Curiouser and Curiouser: Cake or pie? Why?
Sarah Read: Cake! Because people look at you weird when you slather frosting on pie. I’m much better at making pie, though. When I was still dating my husband, his grandfather recommended we marry on account of my pear cranberry pie.
C&C: Pie is better, I think you got the right skill set if two different ones are required to make cake or pie. And yet you didn’t hesitate! What’s the worst thing you’ve ever cooked?
SR: I think this works out well. I can woo others with pie, and have all the cake for myself. Everybody wins.
I actually don’t cook very much. My husband does most of the cooking. If you ask my eldest, the worst thing I’ve ever made is when I put peas in the macaroni and cheese. And I bet my husband would say it’s the stew I made with red cabbage that turned the broth purple. It still tasted fine, I thought. It was just extremely purple. I may have overdone the cabbage a bit.
C&C: Is there anything you can’t leave the house without?
SR: I have nine fountain pens that go with me everywhere. Well, I have a few more than nine pens, but only nine of them go with me. I’m forever trying to narrow it down to five, but it’s a losing battle. They all have a different color of ink in them. And I have enough notebooks to feed a small country. I hand write everything–usually several drafts on paper before I ever type a word. I just think better on paper. The soft friction of the nib, watching the ink soak in–it fires my brain up. The only down side is that I’m at an elevated risk of dying and having my terrible drafts discovered. Every now and then, when I’m cleaning, I destroy an old, full journal.
C&C: Oh PLEASE don’t destroy any more drafts! The trunk of old bad writings, thats our Jacob Marley rattling, heavy chain. It’s also proof that we’ve put a ridiculous amount of time into things, in a good way. What was the first thing you ever wrote that you *didn’t* think completely sucked, and thought “I could make this better and do something with this”?
SR: Well, I have to destroy some of the drafts, or my family will someday end up the subject of a tragic documentary. If the draft is awful, but the idea is good, I’ll jot the idea down in yet a different notebook, before destroying the notebook of awful words. I’m not doing anything that other authors don’t do–they just use the delete key where I use a box cutter.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint a single piece where I decided I could fix it up and make something of it. I kind of have to hit that point from scratch every time. But I did write a story in college–the first new story I’d written in years–that gave me that “oh yeah, this is what I should be doing” feeling. And then I had a baby and didn’t write again for more years. But I came back to it. And I’m still working on that damn story. I love it, though. It won’t get the box cutter.
C&C: What’s the most favorite thing you ever knitted?
SR: I play with yarn a lot. I knit, crochet, weave, and spin yarn on a giant old-fashioned spinning wheel. Like the one in Sleeping Beauty. One of my favorite things to do is to find antique textiles, reverse-engineer them, write the pattern, then make a new one from that pattern. I’ve got a few of those published out in the world, as well as a few of my own original designs. I’m a professional pattern editor, for a living. I’m the designated family clothier in the event of a zombie apocalypse, and I probably have enough yarn to save us all.
C&C: The stuff about the spinning wheel makes me think about the Three Fates. How did you get started with spinning and weaving and writing patterns?
SR: I always feel tied into a collective myth when I’m spinning or weaving or yarning. So much of the way we talk about our history revolves around textiles. And then of course stories are threads woven into webs, and spinners, weavers, and storytellers all share the spider as our symbol. It just all feels right. And I get my best story ideas when I’m at the wheel.
I first started making cloth because I was bored. But that first time I took string and made cloth, I felt like a wizard. It was so expressive and so practical at the same time–it could be art and craft in equal measure. And once I learned one way, I had to start learning all the others, because I’m like that. There are still a few I need to learn.
C&C: How old are your babies?
SR: My eldest son is seven–he just started 2nd grade. My youngest is just about six months, though he’s closer to four months, adjusted. He was rather early, though not as early as he tried to be. He tried to make a break for it at 19 weeks, but they sewed the exit shut and I spent the rest of the pregnancy on bed rest–the last month of that in the hospital. You’d think I’d get a lot of writing done in that time, but I was too anxious. I needed very much to be outside of my head. I think I’ve seen all of Netflix. Little dude was in the NICU for awhile, and I was in bed for another 6 weeks recovering from the birth. I’ve basically been in bed since last Halloween. I feel like I’ve melted. But we’d been trying to have a second child since our eldest was weaned, so after six years of treatments and losses and all kinds of science, we feel pretty lucky to have him at all. I’m terrible at making babies, I guess, but I’ve made good ones. No more, though.
C&C: What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently, and why?
SR: The Babadook. I think it is a beautiful, raw image of families dealing with trauma and emotional distress. The exhaustion, the loneliness, the building anxiety, the sense of losing control. And most of all, the way they care for each other, even through the ugliness. They find their strength in each other. They can’t defeat the monster, but they can stare it down–face it, and learn how to deal with it. Even though it’s always right there, in the house. As long as they take care of each other, they can beat it. Over and over. It’s a really lovely metaphor. But it’s also, at face value, just a damn fine monster movie. I saw a lot of people complaining about not being able to see the monster, or the kid being annoying, and I feel bad that they missed the whole damn movie. I just wanted to give that kid a hug. And then build monster traps with him.
C&C: Who was your first best friend?
SR: My very first kindred spirit friend was (and still is because BFF) Alicia. We met in seventh grade. She also read “weird stuff” like horror and fantasy and sci fi, and we spent the next three years in a world of our own making, until adulthood started to sneak into our heads. Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent with her. We went on magical journeys, which were meandering hikes with random rules like “every time you come to a rock bigger than a baseball, turn left, every time you come to a patch of snow, turn right”. Sometimes that meant wading across a half-frozen pond while carrying a cat. You had to wear every feather you found, somehow. We convinced our junior high we were witches. We took the silver medal in the Earth Sciences exam in Science Olympics. We won for best performance one year at the Denver MileHiCon costume contest (it involved a lot of blood capsules). We were a good team. She lives far away, now, but we still see each other a few times a year. She has two boys as well, so instead of going on magical journeys, we mostly give lots of baths. It’s still all pretty magical, though. I miss our wildness very much.
C&C: If you could go back and do/finish one more adventure with your best friend, as a kid and not an adult, what would you do?
SR: You know, we did leave one of our adventures unfinished. It was when I lived in Switzerland, and she came to visit me. My mom took us, and my little brother, to see the Matterhorn. Only we didn’t make it there, because my mom fell and broke both of her ankles. Mom had to be rushed down the mountain in an ambulance and was sent straight into surgery. So there were we three kids stranded in this tiny Swiss mountain town. We went door to door looking for a free room for the night, and finally we were taken in by a Catholic monastery. The next few nights we shared a cot in the hospital, while we waited for my dad to get to us from England, where he was on business. And then Alicia had to go home. I’ve still never seen the Matterhorn. I’d love to finish that adventure. I think we were off to a pretty good start.