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October 04, 2017

INTO THE WORDS Recap: It’s in the Bag

By Kathy Quimby Johnson

Come to your senses, Pat Esden advised. “Wake up and smell the roses.” She didn’t mean metaphorically, but literally. However, it wasn’t the lemon and lime slices scattered around the room that did it for me. It was the lace glove I chose on impulse when we were invited to select something for the sense of touch. Something about it spoke to me.

The minute I put it on, I knew: Cass wears this. Cass isn’t my main character. She’s one of the supporting cast. While her personality has always been clear to me, and I knew her coloring, I didn’t know her style, I only knew it needed to be as strong as her personality. Now I had one small clue. Now, whenever I sit down to write, I slip on one of Cass’s gloves. When I need to write her, or figure something out about her, I don both.

Cass isn’t the only character from my current work-in-progress who got a boost at “Into the Words.” Her partner Penn did, too, thanks to one of Amy Braun’s bags. This bag, made from ties and a skirt, is perfect for someone who uses “they” as their pronoun. And while Amy may have made the bag I brought home, in my mind, Cass made it for Penn. Suddenly I knew something more about their relationship. I also knew more about Cass—she likes to sew, to play with fabric. Out of that knowledge came an idea for something that Cass contributes to the whole group, something that will allow me to deepen a scene and reveal backstory without info-dumping.

These days, this whole project is much more vivid in my mind, thanks to that lace glove and that bag made of upcycled fabric. I mean that both literally and metaphorically. Not only am I thinking about it more often, but when I sit down at my desk, the bag is hanging off the back of my chair. Inside it, the black lace gloves wait, ready to give me all the inspiration I need.

Katherine Quimby Johnson (aka Katherine Quimby) has always loved books and words, but it took a several decades, wrong turns (proofreading and typesetting, a master’s degree in German, working as a children’s librarian), before she admitted that what she wanted to do was write. Kathy holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and she received the Susan P. Bloom PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery award in 2013. When not writing or teaching in the Professional Writing Program at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, Kathy enjoys a wide range of geekery, yoga, and providing a second home to a neighbor’s cat.