This week's Literary Sewing Circle post is a special treat: we are hearing from the author of our readalong title, Dance Gladys Dance! Cassie answered a few questions I put to her about her book, and about sewing and creative life. Hope you will enjoy!
1. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to write Dance, Gladys, Dance? What was the spark behind this story?
The very first spark came from an actual classified ad I saw for a Hi-fi radio. The last line was “Gladys doesn’t dance anymore, she needs the room to bake.” I was struck by the ad, clipped it from the paper, and kept it for years. I used a version of the ad in the book to answer my question, “Why did Gladys stop dancing?”
2. You seem to have a lot of compassion for all your characters in this story. How do you write characters who've made -- or are currently making -- bad decisions without sounding judgmental?
The one thing I try not to be is judgmental (in real life or in my writing). We often don’t know the stories behind what seems to be poor choices, or we can know the story but have never felt that pain, or we could have felt the pain but had better support systems. There are a million variables to what seems simply like a bad choice.
3. This story blends humour with the darker, or more serious, themes that the characters face. How difficult is it to do this?
I find humour easier to write. Writing the darker moments takes more out of me. There’s a place in the book where a character dies. It took me days of pacing and muttering before I could actually put it onto paper.
4. Art is really the heart of this story, ranging from painting, crochet, collage, and photography to music and film-making. Do you see a connection between all these forms of creation? Do you have personal experience with many of these forms yourself?
I’ve tried most of the forms at least briefly (including a very failed attempt at making music with a harmonica). I absolutely see the value in all forms of expression and creation. They’re all an outlet for our joys or frustrations and it is so satisfying to have made something that exists outside of one’s self.
5. You mentioned that you are currently exploring garment sewing as well. How is that going? Have you made anything you love yet?
I made a black linen blend tunic dress that I love. Unfortunately, I skimped on finishing the inside seams and I’ve had to repair it constantly. After that, when I decided I wanted to sew my own clothes, I was determined to ‘do it right’ and read everything I could on sewing. I think I’ve paralyzed myself with information. Before, I’d just cut out the pattern, follow the instructions, and sew it together. Now my brain explodes with, “Will I need to do full bust, swayback, flat bum adjustments?” “Should l I do French seams or Hong Kong finishes?” So many questions…
I also think anyone who sews must have a certain bravery. If I screw up on writing, I’ve wasted nothing but maybe a piece of paper and a bit of my time. If I screw up cutting out a piece of material (say, the ikat silk I bought from Etsy…) I might ruin the material. At this point, the things I see in my head that I want to make are so far above my skill level.
6. There are so many great online sewing communities. Have you explored any of them yet? Or do you have "in real life" sewing friends?
I’m on Pattern Review all the time and I follow some Facebook sewing groups like the Curvy Sewing Collective but I’m just a lurker at this point, sighing over the beautiful things people make.
7. Finally, there are so many threads woven in to this story for readers to explore. What do you hope readers will take away?
I hope that readers, female ones especially, will take the time to make their creations, to dance their dances, to believe in themselves and their talents.
P.S. I think the Literary Sewing Circle is a fabulous idea and I’m so excited to see what people make!
Thanks to Cassie for taking some time to answer a few of our questions. I hope that it has inspired our readers.
If you haven't yet had a chance, you can also check out Cassie's guest post on my book blog, from back when this book was first published. It's a beautiful essay on everyday creativity.
Is there something particularly intriguing in this set of interview questions? Do you have any thoughts about your reading thus far? Are you starting to plot out a project plan that you'd like to share?