Thursday, November 08, 2007

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Elizabeth Lenhard

I have been such a slug today, but I think I deserve it. The sniffles are better, to the point that while I need to keep a Kleenex handy, I don't have to carry the whole box with me from room to room. I am still having weird dreams, though, since my brain doesn't seem to want to calm down. I had yet another installment of the recurring dream/nightmare in which I've gone back to college and am living in the dorm again (and it's always going back, with me at my current age and with my current life experience, rather than being a still-in-college dream). That one comes up often enough that I may start keeping a log of when I have that dream and what's going on in my life at the time so I can see if there's a pattern.

But in other news ... I've got a new Girlfriends Cyber Circuit entry, and you knitters may want to take note. Chicks with Sticks (Knitwise) completes Elizabeth Lenhard's trilogy of young adult knitting novels that includes Chicks with Sticks (It's a purl thing) and Chicks with Sticks (Knit two together). The series follows a group of Chicago teens who attend a progressive-to-the-point of wacky private school and who find support and comfort in their "stitch and bitch" knitting sessions as they go through teenage issues with friends and boyfriends.

But now the Chicks are staring down the end of high school and it's time to contemplate life beyond the protective web of their knitty ensemble. Will the stresses of college applications and service projects, debutante balls and long-distance loves, mean the end of the Chicks? Or can this unlikely foursome bind-off the happy ending that only true friendship can craft?

And for a bonus, each book includes several original knitting patterns and projects.

Here's the interview:

What was the inspiration behind this book?
The characters were inspired by the close group of girlfriends I had when I lived in Chicago a few years ago. Like the Chicks, we did a LOT of hanging out, snacking, and laughing, and like the Chicks, we had a really close, familial friendship. (But we didn't actually start knitting until after I started writing the Chicks books! Now several of us are knitters.) 

I set the book in Chicago because a) that was the site of my friendship with these women b) I had just moved from Chicago to Atlanta and the books became sort of my good-bye ode and c) I couldn't set a knitty book in Atlanta! It's too hot! Blustery Chicago is the perfect place to always be knitting up something cozy. 

How have you handled the growth of your characters from book to book in your series, since they're at an age when there's so much growth and change?
The arc of the books found each girl growing more and more confident and more comfortable in her skin as time went on and as their friendship grew deeper roots. But another throughline was that Scottie, the main character, was always trying to cling to her comfort level. In CHICKS WITH STICKS (KNITWISE) for example, she's panicked at the idea of leaving the Chicks behind to go to college. So there's a lot of growth going on, but there are also instances of the characters resisting that growth. 

Have you discovered anything surprising or unexpected about your characters as they've grown up?
Scottie always had an edge to her, but I think she turned out to be a little more edgy than I expected. On the other hand, she can also be the group's most earnest and shamelessly nerdy Chick. (And I mean that in a good way!) Depends on the day. 

Also, earth-goddess Bella gives us a big surprise in KNITWISE, but I won't reveal it. ;-) 

How do you develop the knitting patterns that go in these books? (or do you?)
I must confess, I did not write the knitting patterns. Some very talented women who work at Dutton, my publisher, created them. Aren't they wonderful? 

I did recently have my first knitting pattern published in  "101 Designer One-Skein Wonders" (Storey, 2007)  but since it was a baby hat, it wasn't really appropriate for the Chicks with Sticks. 

What do you see as the appeal of knitting?
There are so many. Some people find it very relaxing and meditative. And for those of us who aren't so artistic, i.e. we can't draw or paint or sculpt or such, it's a way to be competantly crafty. If you can follow a pattern, you can knit something pretty great! And bonus -- wearable! 

I like knitting because it's a way to really put myself into gifts I make (mostly baby hats, as many of the people in my circle are reproducing these days).  And it IS indeed social. I recently had a weekend trip with some of the "real" Chicks and we spent hours gabbing and knitting. Knitting's a cozy accessory to a coffee clatch. 

What are you working on now?
I'm finishing up some work-for-hire writing and beginning a new YA novel set in Atlanta.  I'm finally ready to say good-bye to Chicago (now that I've lived here for more than three years!) 

For more info, visit Elizabeth's web site. Or you can buy the book at Amazon.

And now I'm yet again in that state where I desperately need milk, and I also need some other things if I'm going to eat dinner tonight, so I guess I have to drag my body out of the house and to the grocery store.

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