Thursday, January 7, 2010

I doll


I made this doll for the daughter of a friend. It isn't perfect but I like that. I think she did too. It was supposed to resemble her her but she doesn't know her self yet, doesn't have an "I", and when she does it may be nothing like her.

I make a lot of things - I can't sit still - when I'm not writing I'm thinking about writing but I still need to occupy my hands. Kids help fill most of my time, in fairness, and they are a much needed constant in my life. However, when they are tucked up in bed my mind is still very busy, even if my bones are tired.

Often my idleness is elbowed aside by painting, other times I make stuff, rarely I clean house. My creations aren't always as enthusiastically received as this doll was. Sometimes I get cold feet and don't give the thing I made away at all, like a pamphlet of poems recently, and I try to keep in mind that not everyone digs pressed flowers. I'm something of an oldy worldy scatterbrain when it comes to gifts. Don't expect anything cool from me! I'm with the give what you'd like to receive brigade but what I'd like seldom corresponds with what others like to receive.

Where's all this going I hear you ask? (Actually I just asked myself as I had no idea when I started this post!)


Not such a big deal? Now I'm making a novel it is. I don't want to get thousands of words in and have written something nobody wants to read. Having written ten thousand words of notes I want to get this novel right for as many readers as possible.


And I wondered....what was the nicest gift you ever received and what do you most want/look for in a novel?

36 comments:

Algernon Chrisdeburg said...

Sleep, my little sleep...

Rachel Fenton said...

Hola! That's not a comment, it's just shameless pseudo-self advertisement! You are, however, welcome back if you think of somethinf sensible to say. I prefer "In Memoriam", too. Did you know Algernon Swinburne was called "parrot face" or was it "parrot nose"? I digress...I am very fond of randomness as it happens...continue...

catdownunder said...

My most treasured possession is a handwritten copy of TS Eliot's Four Quartets - made by a friend.

Rachel Fenton said...

Now that's what I call a gift, Cat! You must be a special friend.

Kass said...

I'm in love with this little doll.
What I look for in a novel is to be surprised. Surprised by delight. Surprised with the unexpected identification with one or many of the characters. Surprised by the world the author has created. Surprised that I hold the book like it's my new best friend and I can't imagine not ever having known her. There's more, but I'm getting tired of typing surprised.
The nicest gift I ever received was a set of Disney pez dispensers with oodles of pez candies that my Dad bought me. Mother usually bought the Birthday presents, but this one year Dad got a mad impulse and bought this. Mother was displeased, which made it ever so much more the mad joy. I slept with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald munching away all night.
The best (most recent) home-made gift I ever received was an oil painting of a rabbit from a friend (it's in a slide show at the bottom of my blog).

Nik Perring said...

Wow! That doll is GORGEOUS!!

Rachel Fenton said...

Surprise is a good ingredient in a novel, Kass, I, too, like books which bring something unexpected into my mind and, like you said, that can encompass a lot of things.

I have never heard of "pez dispensers" but I think I can picture the sort of thing you mean. A very special memory as well as the gift. The oainting sounds interesting. We have a rabbit but I've never really considered painting her! Will have a look at that when I pop over. Thanks.



Just a quick note to Algernon again - "somethinf" should read "something".

Rachel Fenton said...

Hey, Nik, nearly missed you up there - thank you so much! Wish my novel were looking so pretty!

steven said...

rachel - the dress is like something i would have hoped my girlfriend to wear when i was in my twenties. a very cool doll. steven

Rachel Fenton said...

Note to Kass - "oanting" = "painting" - it'll never catch on but...


Sounds very romantic, Steven - I bet you were a sweetie in your twenties, the sort of lad mums would adore! Thanks.

Thomas Taylor said...

I look for that moment when I find myself standing shoulder to shoulder with a character, experiencing what they do, with the book completely vanished from my hand. If I don't get that, I get impatient.

I'm reading a 600 page novel for 9-12-year-olds (!) right now and I'm not impressed that it took 180 pages to find such a moment. And I'm far from being twelve.

Great doll. Just wait till a certain Penny sees it:)

Rachel Fenton said...

That's a key point, Thomas - thank you. I love books which do that and give me other lives to live for however the book lasts. And you put it really eloquently.

600 page novel for 9 - 12 year olds!!And a boring start! Get the editor!

My daughter's a great critic for children's novels. She's just finished Margaret Mahy's The Dark Blue 100 Ride Bus Ticket and said it was very good - read it in one sitting - but doesn't like everything by Mahy. Reading the Graveyard Book now.

BarbaraS said...

The nicest present? A guitar.

In a novel, I look for a story that sweeps me away and a character or characters that I identify with strongly and have a good sense of how their mind works.

Rachel Fox said...

I'm not a very thing person so to me it is always more about how a gift is given. Once (when I was about 22) my Mum drove miles to see me on my birthday just because I'd ended up with no on-time birthday post that year (and I'd just moved to a city and didn't know many people). She brought whatever she could find in a corner shop on the way (a magazine, some chocolates) but it was the effort that was the gift really. I've never forgotten it.

And novels? Perfectly chosen words, saying something that hasn't been said before, keeping the reader's interest...

x

Elisabeth said...

One of my favorite gifts is an anthology of poetry collected by Louis Untermeyer.

I was fourteen years old and I knew my mother could not afford it when I pointed it out to her in the shop window, but she bought it for me anyhow.

I still have it, ragged and spine fractured, but I love it and almost know each page by heart.

I too love this doll. It has a quality like poetry, many layered and translucent.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Lovely dolly. I LOVE rag dolls.

Best prezzie? God, that's a hard one. Erm, can't name one. I love hand made things - some people made cardis, quilts, crochet dresses, bootees etc for my new baby. That was great.

In a novel? I want to be transported, drawn in.

Rachel Fenton said...

I like that, Barbara, too - getting inside a character's head and being able almost to guess what they're going to do.

A guitar is very cool - must be someone v special indeedy to have bought you that. Can you play?



What a beautiful memory, Rachel, thanks for sharing it.

Apparently humans remember experiences better than artefacts or at least value them more but I guess a lot of the artifacts people are mentioning are attached to significant experiences, too.


Elisabeth - I had to google! Thank you - I love finding something new! Wow, I'm fascinated by why you would have been interested in this poetry at fourteen! Your mother must have thought you would value it. Did she know you treasured it?

Thank you for your lovely dolly comment, too.


Nuala - baby woollens are the cutest, aren't they. My mum knitted me some gorgeous stuff and a hat that I want to frame for it's simple beauty. I think the scale of baby knitting is what makes it lovely.

This dolly is very small - picture is exactly half actual size. I made her dress from the cuff of a blouse my daughter wore when she was four and added some tiny trimmings.


Psychology, perfect words and transportation...
...making a list...thanks all for this. Better answers than I could have imagined.

Marvin said...

we invite you to join us

Annotated Margins said...

Don't "expect anything cool from {you}"!? That doll is too cool.

Rachel Fenton said...

Cheers AM - It would have been cooler if it could have written a chapter of my novel!

Rachel Fenton said...

Marvin - I'm not sure - all this talk of Peru makes me think you have me confused with Paddington.

Jim Murdoch said...

The nicest gift I ever received is actually two gifts. As most people know I have a great love of the work of Samuel Beckett and one day, let’s say it was for my birthday because I don’t remember exactly, I was presented with a couple of custom-made dolls of Didi and Gogo and then for the next celebration on the calendar, probably Xmas, I got a pair of Gogo’s boot which my wife handmade from a pair of old shoes. I’ve uploaded a photo since that says more than any amount of words.

As for what I look for in a novel, that’s quite simple: when I’ve finished the book I want to be able to say, “I wish I’d written that.”

Rachel Fenton said...

Jim, making the boots must have been really hard work on your wife's fingers - even with a thimble - unless she has a machine...what a wonderful gift...they look very good - look like they've been worn a lomg time and just taken off, too...love how the laces are dangling...the dolls look very expressive...what are their hands made of?

There are a few books I wish I'd written, Jim, either for the plot or for the use of language or some other element. I love reading things and running through a checklist in my brain of which parts are good and why and which parts could have been stronger...I only wish I could carry those critical tools into all of my own writing. Thanks for the photo, btw, they weren't how I had imagined them but were much better!

Jim Murdoch said...

http://www.clothdollpatterns.com/patterns3/id16.htm

Scroll down to 'Breadline Bill'.

Carrie sent her photos of Didi and Gogo and she adapted the design to suit.

Rachel Fenton said...

Cool! Thanks for this!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I WISH I cold make things with my hands. If I make bread or cakes they turn out like planks. if I draw it looks like a three year old has done it. I knitted a jumper once, one sleeve when I was well, the other when I was in bed with chickenpox. One sleeve was 12 inches longer than the other, the tension was sooo different!

Novel. I want to be transported, like Nuala.

BUT

BUT

BUT

what transports me, may not transport her. You can't afford to respond to what the readers all tell you they want - cos they are all different.

If you want to please the majority, you'll write a zombie thriller full of sex and violence. Look forward to that one!

Golden West said...

The best gift ever for me is the gift of time together. My daughter stops by and takes me along when she goes for a surf or a trip to the fruit stand.

In novels, I look to be transported back in time, especially when history is woven into the tale, and the main characters are sympathetic or endearing enough for me to care about.

Your doll is charming, Rachel.

Rachel Fenton said...

Ha, Vanessa - you made me snort laugh my cereal out! Thank you - you don't know how much I needed that today!

Rest assured there'll be no zombies...though I do hope to bring some as yet dead people back to life!

And I thought vampires were the big deal....wonder when dinosaurs will be popular again? I'm not writing about dinosaurs either..


I'm not the best with knitting or baking either, or anything requiring symmetry because my measuring is so bad - I measure only by eye, but I do a mean pastry on account of my always cold hands! (Don't use measuring scales for that either...

...I'm definitely into transporting....



Thanks GW - think you'll like what's cooking with this novel then!

I seldom watch my daughter in the sea as it scares the life out of me! But I do think time is the most precious thing we can give, whether that's time together or time spent making something for people we can't be with.

Thanks.

minniebeaniste said...

Lovely doll, Rachel - how wonderful for a writer to have such ability with crafts. Displacement activity is a vital tool of the trade, and so much better if there is something tangible produced at the end of it.
Favourite gift? An offer to share a palomino pony; a large, beautifully-framed signed print by a German artist given to me by a dying beloved ... there've been many, all in the past. Favourite style of novel? You must be joking: reading fiction's as various a pastime as the field itself - thank goodness!

Rachel Fenton said...

Oh Minnie, what wonderful (and tragic) gifts. The past is a good storage facility for such things.

Yes variety is quite a blessing for a writer and a reader, isn't it?

Thank you, minnie.

Dreamstate said...

I love the way your little doll looks like she is falling and dancing through the air. Poetry.

I'm not sure how I came here (blog though a blog through a blog) and I'm really enjoying what I've read. I tend to be a lurker but I thought I would say hello this time.

Greatest gift? My college roommate, whom I thought hated me, gave me a box set of the Chronicles of Narnia, because she once heard me say it was my favorite. All the more amazing because it was unexpected.

And what I most look for in a novel? To be taken somewhere else and shown something I wouldn't have seen in my everyday.

Rachel Fenton said...

And very welcome your "hello" is too!

Thanks for the compliment.

That's a cool surprise gift - she must have been very fond of you. Did you end up becoming good friends?

Yes, I like that in a novel, either that or to be shown the everyday in a way that transports that into something magical or unexpected.

Cheers.

patteran said...

Best gift: variable over the years, but of recent times, a double breasted black woolen overcoat from the '50s but in perfect condition, bought for me by my partner.

From a novel: that it creates its characters and their context (whatever that might be) so vividly and with such truth that I am entirely convinced by and absorbed in it.

Rachel Fenton said...

You are one very cool dude, Dick!
And very lucky to have a partner so in tune with you.

I want to forget I'm reading, too, that I am somehow in another world and that I am indistinguishable from the events that are happening around me - even when I'm writing, when I read back what I've written I want to fool myself.

Lori said...

Oh, you also make little things? That's so nice. We have quite a bit in common. Nice to know. Making things makes me happy too.

What do I look for in a book? Truth, I think. Not original, I know. But I don't know how else to put it. I want to find some kind of truth. Something that feels true. An honest, sincerely beating hear. An answer about the world that seems right.

Rachel Fenton said...

Thank you Lori - giving any story "emotional truth" has been a piece of very good advice I received asome time ago. There's nothing worse than thinking to yourself - I just cannot believe what I'm reading...


...I love making things - it is very satisfying to know that something I've made makes someone else smile too.