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I have a confession to make: I cannot knit. If you give me a pair of sticks, I’ll probably try to grill meat with them.
But I admire those who can wield those sharp, pokey sticks with any sort of flair that leads to something remotely wearable. Things non-meat related. However, the fact I cannot knit does not mean that Debbie Macomber’s new book, SUMMER ON BLOSSOM STREET, excludes me in any way. After all, not everyone in the book can knit. The foster teenager, Casey, tries knitting and fails spectacularly, leading her to be uber-grumpy about the whole lesson. I was totally with her on it: knitting is stupid. (Long live grilling.)
But then a few minutes later, under the tutelage of the heroine’s sister Margaret, Casey was crocheting like a pirate takes to rum. And I laughed because I can crochet like no one’s business. It does seem people can do one trick or the other, but not both. It’s almost like being right or left handed.
In any case, there is something about that scene that is so Debbie Macomber. She will never exclude you; and she knows with just the right guidance, you’ll find the right place to thrive. I would hazard a guess that in most of her novels, this is the theme that presides. No one is excluded; and everyone, with the right nurturing, can thrive. After all, if there is anyone who knows about thriving in a business that seems to be exclusive, it’d be Debbie.
I met Debbie Macomber at a writing conference in Chicago, where she was giving a lecture about harvesting for new story ideas. With as many books as she’s produced over the years, she certainly is speaking about something she knows.
However, Debbie is a sly one. She is always looking for ways to expand her audience; and her cleverest way yet is in the series of books she has now, about knitting. At the conference class, she called this strategy “looking for trends.” I call it “being insanely genius in that Law & Order sort of way.” Now when you read Debbie Macomber’s new book, not only do you get a story, weaved (or knitted, if you will) of several characters who interact with each other, but you also get the knitting pattern so you can make the knitting project yourself.
Now, in her newest book, she’s taken this up a notch. This novel hinges around the concept of “Knit to Quit”, which knitters meet together as a support group to work on a project and also work on quitting a bad habit. Mostly this concept was created for smokers, but clever Debbie expanded the idea to all bad habits.
Upon reading this idea in the book, I went “cool idea!” and bought yarn to crochet. After all, it’s difficult to crochet and eat Cheetos at the same time. In fact, it’s impossible unless I tie the bag to my face as a feedbag and crochet at the same time—and frankly, even I have limits. Debbie is onto something with the Knit to Quit thing. It’s not working as effortlessly as I’d like, but it does keep me out of the Cheetos. And Peanut Butter Cups, most of the time.
Not all the characters are as prosaic as me. Here I want to moderate my intake of junk food; but one of the main characters, Phoebe, wants to quit men altogether. (I find this to be even more extreme than the Cheetos feedbag, personally, and would never try it with any real sincerity.) Another wants to quit stress (another thing I could identify with, right down to the doctor’s visit who said, “You need to relax already.”)
If the trendy “Knit to Quit” strategy wasn’t enough, Debbie proves to be ahead of the curve with the “chocolate issue.” One of the knitters, Hutch, is the CEO of a chocolate company, a company that is being sued by a woman who said the chocolate made her fat and it was all their fault. You know, for making it taste so good. I snorted at this, thinking it was only a matter of time before Hershey’s finds itself in litigation for making someone fat. I mean, look at that crazy lawsuit the old lady won from McDonald’s. Of course the coffee is hot! Duh.
And then I saw this article. A chocolate TAX. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. Debbie wasn’t just making up random lawsuits. She was predicting the future! (And God forbid they start fat-taxing our chocolate!)
I’m impressed. Debbie definitely practices what she preaches about writing. Look for trends—and twist them. Write about things you have a passion for, that you know. And while you should always stretch your writer’s pen, you shouldn’t be someone you’re not. Readers will always find you out. In these things, Debbie always delivers—and she always gives a little more as well.
Definitely go check out Debbie’s new book, SUMMER ON BLOSSOM STREET. You don’t have to be a knitter—hell, you don’t even have to be a crocheter. Within a few pages, you’ll find yourself included and engrossed in real problems you’d find on any street in America, and comfortable in the knowledge that Debbie will make it all work out in the end.
What trends (with twists) have you found in books lately? Anything that’s really stood out for you that you thought was clever?