Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Unfinished Quilt

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 girl.              

Pure happiness.  Pure tiredness. 

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 Squares. 

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 Long.   

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.

"The Unfinished Quilt" was first published in August 2004 issue of Kid Magazine Writers.

6 comments:

Mirka Breen said...

No quilt, but the quilt story made it!
Maybe now, with first-born so grown, go back to the quilt?...

Katie L. Carroll said...

Such a sweet story. I love those rebus tales!

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I figured a quilt story is better than no quilt at all. Alas, I wish I enjoyed sewing more because it's so useful, and esp. now with today's dreadful fashions. But I admire my sister and friends who've sewed beautiful clothes for me and the children.

Katie, thank you. Rebuses are fun and they are such a great help for kids. Once they become fluent, they like to make their own.

Johnell DeWitt said...

I haven't read the story yet, but your post makes me want to. So warm and inviting.

Barbara Etlin said...

Fun story!

Vijaya said...

Thanks Johnell and Barb.