Title and Author: Sewing Can Be Dangerous And Other Small Threads by S.R Mallery
No. of Pages: 276
Publication Date: December 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction, Anthology, Short Stories, Romance, Mystery, Action
The eleven long short stories in “Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads” combine history, mystery, action and/or romance, and range from drug trafficking using Guatemalan hand-woven wallets, to an Antebellum U.S. slave using codes in her quilts as a message system to freedom; from an ex-journalist and her Hopi Indian maid solving a cold case together involving Katchina spirits, to a couple hiding Christian passports in a comforter in Nazi Germany; from a wedding quilt curse dating back to the Salem Witchcraft Trials, to a mystery involving a young seamstress in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; from a 1980’s Romeo and Juliet romance between a rising Wall Street financial ‘star’ and an eclectic fiber artist, to a Haight-Asbury love affair between a professor and a beautiful macramé artist gone horribly askew, just to name a few.
What sparked your interest in becoming a writer?
Coming from a family of writers, for many years I wouldn’t touch that profession with a ten-foot pole! It was far too much pressure. But slowly, surely, over the years, each time I watched a movie that involved a writer, I was curiously drawn to the character, as if I had somehow ‘come home.’
Then one day I was waiting for my teenage daughter to finish trying on clothes at a department store and thought, ‘Why not give storytelling a try?’ It ended up being this collection’s first story, “Sewing Can Be Dangerous,” all about the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911. My father had told me about this horrific event earlier that year and suddenly, amidst saleswomen bustling by and customers lining up in front of a nearby cashier, I threw all caution to the wind. I pulled out my tiny, purse-size notepad and pen and started to write. And write. And write. It was like a drug; I never looked back.
What was the first novel you read that made an impression on you and what affect has it had on your writing career?
Although there have been various authors I’ve read and admired, perhaps Harper Lee was the most important one for me. From her I learned early on that being simple yet lyrical, presenting appealing characters and touching subjects, and ‘showing not telling’ can be a very powerful combination. I didn’t consciously try to incorporate those things into my writing, but I believe they’re still lodged somewhere in me, so whenever I try to be too verbose or too facile rather than coming from the heart, I know I’ll get into trouble.
Who is your hero and why?
Oh, dear, I have many—Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, for meeting adversity with peace. Numerous female writers from long ago, such as Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austin, Mary Shelley, etc., for standing out from the mundane, suppressed female crowd, and ordinary everyday people who face unbelievable odds and still manage to give of themselves with dignity and grace.
What advice would you give to someone getting ready to publish for the first time?
I would tell him/her to make sure the manuscript in question is properly edited and read by several beta readers, in order to get other perspectives and critiques. After all, as writers we can easily assume everything we write is going to be completely understood by others. But it’s these other evaluations that keep us on track and bring us clarity. Believe me, I’ve learned the hard way…
What are five things that readers would be surprised to know about you?
- I was a professional singer, both at a large cathedral and in small clubs. My Yin and Yang, so to speak! The cathedral’s acoustics were amazing—my voice, trained in classical ‘art songs’ not heavy opera, floated through this sizeable cathedral that had won architectural design awards. Then at night, I sang in grade B clubs, where the espresso coffee machines, bartender’s glass clicking, and customer’s banter with waitresses competed with our small band’s forty-five minute sets.
- I was a professional calligrapher, mostly doing certificates and wedding invitations (before fonts were readily available on Word and the Internet). I remember I was once given a very precious blank certificate and told how important this document was. When I asked if there was another copy ‘just in case,’ the customer simply scoffed, so I soldiered on. However, I got so nervous I remember drinking a big, filled-to-the-brim glass of wine, which seemed to do the trick—the certificate came out okay. More than okay. In fact, it crossed my mind that perhaps in the future I should do all of my certificates with…not!
- I was a quilt designer/quilt teacher for over twenty years. I not only had my own work in shows, I had a business that I started called “Memento Quilts,” where I would take people’s treasured clothing and incorporate them––buttons, ribbons, zippers, et al.–– into their quilts. I also got a couple of How To articles published regarding my techniques on that subject.
- Years ago I was a production artist for a medical advertising firm. I was supposed to lay down printed text and photos and carefully line them up with my T-square, clamped against the left side of my drafting table. Exacting work and sometimes quite unpleasant, particularly when the photos showed skin diseases. Staring down at abscesses and oozing sores for hours did not make for a great lunchtime, but what I did gain from that experience was to this day, if I see a slightly crooked picture hanging on a wall that most people would ignore, I immediately want to straighten it!
- I currently teach adult ESL students from other countries part time. Many years ago I also taught the Laubach Literacy program to adults labeled ‘functionally illiterate’. Funny thing is though, those literacy students, who had gone through their entire lives hiding in shame, were some of the smartest people I have ever taught. Food for thought?
S.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life. First, a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy.?Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.
getting a lot of attention—history, vintage clothing, older films)
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