2021.04.12

I haven’t started shouting from mountain tops about my book yet, mostly because it’s so far out that I don’t have a pre-order link for you. I thought I’d tell you a bit about it this week, but after a week of this letter languishing in drafts, I’m ready to admit I’m not ready to write about the writing. I hope that’s OK for now.

Once this book is a thing you can buy and read (and tell all of your friends), I’m sure you’ll get very tired of hearing about it. But right now, it’s in that fragile place, still amorphous, and I’m only just learning the edges myself. It is all potential and completely in my hands.

These past few months, I’ve had 7 sessions with a counsellor, and this Thursday will be our 8th and last. Canadian healthcare is great, except when it comes to eyes, teeth, and brains. It’s easier in BC to get antidepressants covered than it is to just sit down and talk to someone. And in February, after nearly 6 years of trying different medications, my doctor agreed to let me take a break.

My counsellor asked me to describe my fears about the future, and almost none of them are related to this book. (Though if this book makes a truckload of money, it could allay some of the other fears.) I don’t have Impostor Syndrome; I know I’m good at what I do. I just haven’t seen much evidence that other people recognise it, too. This book is a giant leap forward in recognition. 

I’ve been thinking about this book since August 2018, when I challenged myself to make a zine a day for a whole month. Thanks, it has pockets! was one of the zines I made. And ever since then, I’ve had a task on my list to update it from that hasty “gotta make the deadline” version, make a “good copy.” Then I visited Microcosm’s store in Portland, and ever since then, I’ve had a task on my list to write something for them. The first time I met Joe and browsed the shelves, I knew my books would fit in. 

So while I thought about writing a book proposal all last year, I was also baking sourdough bread and building a brand around food. Except Microcosm already has lots of books about sourdough and fermentation. They don’t have a lot about sewing, and with the need for masks, plus more time at home, my mom had cleaned up the basement sewing room, we had both returned to the hobby.

Sewing is one of many things I’ve tried on my winding road to independence. I put up Craigslist ads in my twenties and sewed a handful of commissions (including a wedding dress! which I will never do again). I’ve cycled through a half dozen Etsy shop incarnations. Here’s a photo of my table at a craft fair in 2010. But I started even before that. I started as a teenager sharing my grandma’s table.

This was the biggest reason I changed the name of this newsletter. “Homemaking” encompasses more of what I do. It’s not just baking. It’s everything we make by hand, and how we pass on what we know. DIY is the forever heart of my life, and I hope even a tiny bit of that love comes through in this book.

Because I’m not gonna stop baking bread. I won’t stop writing. I’m happy to stop publishing zines, if only to let others take my words and do it better. By the end of 2020, I was completely spent. I had just restarted Congenial Telegram, Megan and I made a new General, and already I wanted to quit. I’m tired of trying so hard.

So I came back to this idea of a book. I’ve read every publishing book on the shelves of every local library. I’ve read the query critiques, and MSWL, and agent blogs. I’ve even coached friends through the process of getting an agent. But I couldn’t do the same for myself because to get an agent, you need one of two things: for fiction, you need to write a novel; for nonfiction, you need an audience.

I had neither. I had been trying fiction for so long because the barrier to publishing nonfiction is so much higher. You basically need a half million Twitter followers, a published essay going viral, or you’re an interesting person writing your memoir. (Academic nonfiction is a whole other thing.) 

So I came back to this idea of a book, and I came back to Microcosm, where they specialise in books that teach you how to do the things so many of us have forgotten. Writing this book for Microcosm feels like so much more than recognition that I can make something worthwhile. I feel at home there, and even though I’m still writing the first draft, I literally can’t wait to pitch book #2. 

You know I’ve got ideas, but what do you think it should be?

💘 Jess

PS I know I’ve been flaky about Instagram recently, and I don’t think that’s going to change, sorry. I really don’t care for the direction the app (the internet!!) is headed, and I anticipate updates will be sporadic and mostly pics of the farmers market once it starts in May. The best way to get in touch with me is right here; just hit reply :)