From the web archives: The Unfinished Quilt
Snip, snip, snip went my scissors as I cut
six-inch squares from my son’s old clothes. He was eighteen months old
and I was pregnant with my second child. We collected sixty squares over
a couple of months. I was going to make a baby quilt. But ...
I enrolled in my first
writing class – writing for children. And I loved it. After years
of doing science and scientific writing, it felt good to return to my childhood
dream of becoming a writer. I wrote stories about my son, our cats and my
childhood. And the six-inch squares lay in a box. All sewing came
to a standstill.
After the course was
finished, I made an apron from those squares for my son’s second birthday.
He deserved one for being such a good helper (he still is). I was heavy
with child. Two months later, I gave birth to a ten pound baby
For six months, I wrote only
grocery lists. Sleep became a high priority. Then I began to flex
my writing muscles.
My teacher had said,
“Write what you know.” So I wrote a short story about a little boy and
his mother who cut up six inch squares from old clothes that don’t fit
anymore. The boy receives a quilt on his birthday. My first version
was longer, with details. But I pared the story down to its bare bones,
about one hundred words. After reading it over I thought it would make a
good rebus (story with pictures to help the beginning reader) so I submitted it
as such to Ladybug.
Four months later, on a
sunny Saturday afternoon, my SASE arrived. I expected another
rejection. I had submitted about fifteen stories to various magazines
that I enjoyed reading and they had all been returned, some with a form letter,
others with a note of encouragement scribbled on them.
I ripped open the
envelope and unfolded the letter. It said, “Thank you for sending Six
Inch Squares for our consideration ...” and I thought, Oh, a personal rejection
letter. But by the end of the first paragraph I felt my grin spread
across my face as I read, “ ... I’m happy to tell you that we would like to
accept it for publication in Ladybug. This is a wonderful
presentation of old things begetting new memories.”
Waving my acceptance
letter, I ran to the backyard where my family was picking the last of the
blackberries, shouting, “An acceptance! An acceptance!” I got
blackberry kisses. Later we had a celebratory reading of Six Inch
My children still don’t
have a home-made quilt with all their favorite pieces of clothing. But
they’ll get to read my story in print instead!
Six-Inch Squares has been
published in the Oct. 2005 issue of Ladybug with darling illustrations by Sylvia
What is a rebus?
A rebus is a picture
puzzle originating from ancient Egypt and hieroglyphics, which by the sounds of
their words suggests words or phrases. For example: Johnny Carson = jaw +
knee + car + sun. These are fun, but for children learning to read, a
rebus is not meant to be a pun, but a tool.
Ladybug substitutes pictures for concrete
nouns within the sentence. An illustration shows the key. Highlights
for Children has a picture next to the noun. Generally a rebus has
5-10 picturable words that are repeated a couple of times in a very, very short
(75-125 words) and satisfying story.
Quilt" was first published in August 2004 issue of Kid Magazine Writers.