Work In Progress: March 2022

The current cross stitch project is a fractal–more colorful in real life than in either of these photos. The pattern is complicated and intriguing and is trying to teach me to become a more disciplined stitcher. I stitch in a combination of techniques: “cross country” (working across the piece with one color at a time) and “parking” (working in one or two grids with multiple colors). I tend to skip around. If I’m going to finish this, I need to stop skipping. I like pieces that require me to learn something new–in this case, better parking. If you want to take a look at my learning curve, glance through the gallery.


Almost spring. I thought so, anyway–February was warm and March started off that way. But we’ve had a late freeze here in the Hill Country, so I guess spring is still around the corner.  The daffodils are as ready as I am, blooming cheerfully along the rim of the woodlot. I’m doing much less gardening these days (chronic bad back), so I take a special pleasure in the wild flowers. The redbud is blooming by the creek, the Texas mountain laurel is putting out a few buds, and the bluebonnets and paintbrush will be along in the next few weeks. All I need is a little patience.

On the writing desk.  I feel the same way about writing projects as I do about stitchery. If a piece doesn’t teach me something new, it’s not worth doing. The current project (a biographical novel about the friendship of Georgia O’Keeffe and Maria Chabot) requires me to write about a character I’m not liking very much. In fact, the longer I work with her, the less I like. (I wrote something about that last month,)  And the less I like, the harder it is to represent her fully.

O’Keeffe’s art is one thing, and stands on its own, an admiraable achievement in a time when women artists were rarely allowed membership in the male-dominated art world. Her relationships with the people who worked for her, admired her, and tried to be her friends–that’s something else entirely. (“If only people were trees,” she once wrote to a friend, “I might like them better.”) And that’s what I find both intriguing and difficult. Why does this woman feel and behave as she does toward others? How can I represent her both accurately and with sympathy?

But I persist. I’m blessed to have the Chabot/O’Keeffe letters to work from, a trove of unpublished Chabot materials from the O’Keeffe archive in Santa Fe, and six excellent O’Keeffe biographies to work from, each very strong in a different way. The story is in their intersections. Currently: I’m almost finished with a draft of the fiction and looking forward to writing the biographical epilogue. There’s a lot of revision to be done, because  my understanding of both the main characters has changed as I’ve worked with their stories. You’re not going to have this book very soon, I’m afraid.

Books and politics. A contagion of book-banning is sweeping across Texas and many other states. The Texas Library Association has formed a coalition to ensure that librarians “will be entrusted to continue to do their jobs and serve the needs of ALL students and communities.” A book that doesn’t fit one young reader may be just what another reader needs. What young readers need: a wide variety of books representing a wide variety of dreams and ideas, freely available to all who want to read. You can learn about the Texas coalition here:  Your state library association may have such a coalition, too.

Reading note. Yes, books are dangerous. They should be dangerous – they contain ideas.― Pete Hautman




14 comments on “Work In Progress: March 2022

  1. Hi Susan, I too, am a big China fan, and have read all your China books. You probably don’t remember me, but my daughter used to live in Round Rock. They now live in Dallas, but I loved Austin. It is very sad about the book banning, I love the quote by Hautman. I enjoy hearing about your home, and your needlework is gorgeous!

  2. I’m sure the signs of Spring are very pretty in your area Susan. It is still a few weeks away for us here in Michigan. It snowed (very lightly) again today. I’m sorry that your back prevents you from gardening. You live in a perfect place for your enjoyment of the wild garden all around you. I have empathy for you regarding writing about Georgia O’Keeffe. As interested as I am in reading the book you are writing I think that it will be very difficult relate to her. I have “bonded” with many of your characters and with the real life women you have written about. Georgia O’Keefe while fascinating is not someone I can like. I look forward to seeing how you manage this one. Happy Spring!

  3. Greetings from Canada and the Pacific South West. I have read all your books and have enjoyed them all. Am always waiting for a new book Enjoy receiving your emails and the description of the area of Texas that you live in Unfortunately the only part of Texas I have visited is Dallas Marion M

  4. I am new to your writings. About a month ago I went to the library to get a book. I was looking for a mystery and large print, started with the A’s and low and behold found you and have totally loved all your books that I’ve read so far. Those are largely the China Bayles mystery stories. I moved to Texas, outside of Seguin five years ago, so it is kind of fun to read when you reference this little town. The second part of your readings that I like is all the info about the plants. Looking forward to reading even more. Thank you

  5. I, too, have read much about Georgia O’Keefe and have found her much less likable than her art work. Glad to know I was not a Lone Ranger. But I am eager to read your take on her.

  6. So Glad to hear about the book you are working on and Know will be Great just like your All yourOther work💯 Glad to hear your Redbud is blooming 👍Take care and Have a Wonderful Spring.

  7. Yes Mary, it is available at most of the big name pharmacies and easily ordered online as well for around $20 in a large tube that lasts a long time. You will find it only takes a small amount to cover a large area. I have found no down side from using this cream. Applying it at bedtime also allowed me to sleep when my back was at its worst. Though it is specifically for those with fibromyalgia, I know a man with arthritis in his knees who says it helps him. I hope you will find that it helps you, too. And no, I don’t own stock in the company.

  8. Cruelty suggests a narcissistic sociopath.. She required companionship so she could control them. She was neither a Loner nor an Introvert. What a complex woman for you to write about !!

  9. However you choose to write and whenever you write is all fine with me! My goodness look at all there is in this post. Thank you for sharing your life and thoughts.
    After reading Hemlock like the page turner it is at the end of 2021, I am enjoying rereading it this month at a slower pace to savor all you put into it.
    As to chronic back ache, may I suggest Fibro Cream by Topricin. I sprained my lower back a few years ago and this cream suggested by a friend, helped me through the worst of it. A little dab will do and no smell or stickiness. I sometimes use it for tired needlecrafting hands.

  10. Thanks, Ellie–I’ll have a look. Yes, you’re reading her correctly. Misanthropy is the image she cultivates. It’s the line between that and cruelty that’s problematic.

  11. Georgia’s comment about trees and people suggests that she may have been a Misanthrope at heart. If you can find a copy of the late Florence King’s nonfiction book,”With Charity Toward None: A Fond Look at Misanthropy”, published in 1992, either on eBay or Amazon, it may shed some light on the situation.

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