Interview With Kathryn Vercillo Author of “Crochet Saved My Life”
by Red Haircrow
About the Author
What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
I am a non-fiction writer who believes strongly in the value of each individual’s personal experience in this world. I believe that sharing our experience is cathartic for ourselves and is a beneficial for others. When you read something that really connects with your heart, you feel a stronger tie to the larger whole of humanity and that’s the writing that I aim to share in my work.
My newest book, Crochet Saved My Life, includes my own mini-memoir about my battle with depression and many people have told me that they really relate to that part of the book. The book also shares stories from other women who went through mental health issues and found creative self-expression and crafting to be healing, so this allowed me to not only share my own story but also to give voice to the true individual stories of other women.
As far as topics, I love exploring creativity, mental health, relationships, human psychology and motivations and all aspects of art and craft. In addition to my non-fiction books, I also write multiple blogs (Crochet Concupiscence, Diary of a Smart Chick, my writing blog) and do articles for various websites and magazines, all in the same vein as my non-fiction book topics.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
That’s an interesting question because I realized it really early on in my childhood but then kind of lost my way a little bit over the years and it’s something I just keep remembering again and again in new ways. I started writing stories when I was barely old enough to write and writing has always been this thread that ran through my life in one form or another. However, I did explore other career paths (social work, law, teaching) so I’d meander away from writing for a little bit and then feel pulled to it again.
It was finally about the age of 24 or 25 that I realized that yes, indeed, I did want to be a full-time writer. Even within that, I wasn’t sure what kind of writer I was or wanted to be. I’ve done everything from academic writing to professional blogging for small businesses to ghostwriting … and in the past few years I finally committed myself to focusing on writing my own creative non-fiction works rather than doing writing on other people’s projects. So I’d say I first realized I wanted to be a writer when I was about 4 and then I realized it strongly again 20 years later!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
My very favorite thing to do is to explore my city. I’m originally from Tucson, Arizona but I moved to San Francisco several years ago because I was just so creatively in love with the city. I thrive here. I adore it here. So when I’m not writing, I am usually out doing something in the city to get inspiration. I love random events (literary, artistic, nerdy, whatever) and off-the-beaten-path attractions and just walking around. Other things I enjoy include crochet, making collages, yoga/pilates, hiking and having random conversations.
Where do you hang out online? Website URL, author groups, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc?
I’m fairly active and easy to find online. In addition to the links above, I am active on Twitter (as @CrochetBlogger and @KathrynVercillo), G+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon. I am also active on Facebook, with fan pages for me as an author, my book and my crochet blog.
What types of books do you like to read?
I read quickly and I read a lot. I have a diverse range of interests. However, I am most drawn to non-fiction. I absolutely love memoirs, particular creative and mental health memoirs, especially those written by women. I also love non-fiction books that cover niche topics (like memory championships, written about by Joshua Foer in Moonwalking with Einstein, or the role of librarians in the modern age, written about by Marilyn Johnson in This Book is Overdue). I’ll add that physically I prefer print books to digital books.
What would you like readers to know about you the individual?
I want to know you! I really enjoy hearing the personal stories of other people who enjoy my writing. I love allowing readers to comment on my blogs because it gives them a forum for sharing their own truths. One of the things I’ve done with Crochet Saved My Life is encouraged people who want to tell their own craft-related health stories to email me the story and I’ll post on my blog for a welcoming audience.
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
A random fun fact is that a few months before high school graduation I dropped out of school but I did attend my senior prom and was actually the prom queen.
Your Writing Process
Why do you write?
I can’t not write. I don’t even know what I would do if suddenly I was rendered incapable of writing. Writing is integral to my entire experience of processing and relating to the world around me.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I try to write at least six days per week. I think it’s valuable to write in some form every day but occasionally I take a day off just to immerse myself in a non-writing experience.
A pretty typical day for me looks like this:
• Wake up without an alarm clock. Yay!
• Drink coffee while watching a short TV show and simultaneously playing a game like Words with Friends on my iPod. Sometimes I read instead.
• Make the day’s To Do list, mostly a way to get my brain organized for the rest of the day.
• Check email and answer anything super important.
• Promote all of my posts that went live in the morning on social networks.
• I write best earlier in the day so I try to get going with actual writing no later than noon. Other than a break for lunch I typically write until five or six. This writing may include working on a book, doing some articles or writing blog posts.
• After that I try to spend an hour or two on other author-related tasks. I go through my blogroll and comment on people’s posts that I like. I answer the rest of my email. I communicate with my web support guy. I pitch articles or interviews to people or do something to promote my book.
• The evening is spent spending time with friends, talking on the phone with family, reading, crocheting and/or watching TV.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Stick with it. There is no one right way to write or to make a writing career for yourself. It’s an ongoing process that takes years and years to develop. There will be ups and downs and you won’t always know if you want to do it or how you want to do it. But if you write, you are a writer, so just keep at it and you’ll figure out what works for you.
Is there any other genre you have considered writing in?
I dabble in poetry. I’d love to write a novel at some point but that’s probably the area I’m weakest in technically.
Do you listen to music or have another form of inspiration when you are writing?
If I’m working on something that requires a lot of attention then I keep it silent in the house. If it’s something that requires a little less focus then I might have on music (via Pandora) or a podcast (craft, business and author podcasts are my go-tos) or more likely I’ll have some trashy reality TV show on in the background as noise that I only half pay attention to. I wouldn’t say it’s inspiration for my writing but it’s part of my writing process.
Most people envision an author’s life as being really glamorous. What’s the most unglamorous thing that you’ve done in the past week?
Ha, I love this question! People especially think it’s glamorous being a writer living in a cute apartment in San Francisco. It’s super wonderful and I love it but it’s not glamorous. I enjoy living a car-free life and usually walk everywhere but sometimes I do take the bus, which most people would say is not so glamorous.
What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
The oft-repeated advice to write what you know. I have not always listened to this advice and I have usually regretted it when I chose to ignore it.
Your book is about to be sent into the reader world, what is one word that describes how you feel?
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I wrote two books about the ghosts of the Bay Area a few years ago. In 2011 I self-published a booklet of articles so that I could explore how the self-publishing process worked. And then in 2012 I’ve self-published Crochet Saved My Life, which is my book about the mental and physical health benefits of crafting, posited around the theory that “handmade heals”. This new book was really a work direct from my heart and so it’s my favorite that’s been published so far. But I have to say that my true favorite is the next one … it’s always the next one!
What can we look forward to in the upcoming months?
I have two different books in the works right now, both somewhat related to the most recent book. Which one will come out first is up in the air right now, as I’m still in the early stages of seeing how it’s all going to develop. One is going to be a creativity book for people who crochet, offering them creative exercises and ideas for using a craft to explore their inner selves and improve their own quality of life. The other is about how crochet doesn’t just help individuals but can also help entire communities of people. Anyone who is interested in these books can keep updated on them by following any of my blogs via RSS feed or following my author page on Facebook.
When a new book comes out, are you nervous about how readers will react to it?
Of course! I can’t imagine a writer or artist who isn’t. On the one hand, you’re done now and you’ve put out the best thing that you can so it seems a little silly to be nervous. But the thing is that you never know if what you intend to convey is going to come across the way that you want it to. Until you start to hear that people are reacting to it, there’s a long pause of nervous energy!
What story haven’t you written yet but would like to? Is there anything holding you back from writing it?
When I was 21 I worked in a therapeutic level group home for foster kids with behavioral problems. It was an intense, amazing experience. When I left there, I wrote a book about my experiences. However, the book wasn’t very good. I was too immature of a writer and I was too close to the experience at the time to be able to share the story properly. I would really love to finish that project someday. I’ve considered re-writing the story as a novel but I think it’ll end up being non-fiction/ memoir-style. We’ll see. I haven’t done it yet because something doesn’t feel ready but I’ve also never let go of that particular project (I do have other unpublished books that I have let go of) so I know that at some point I’ll be ready to write that one.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
I love research! Half of what I love about blogging is that I get to do constant research into topics that interest me. For the ongoing research for my crochet blog I subscribe to hundreds of other crochet blogs, receive some crochet newsletters, get all the crochet magazines, read as many crochet books as possible and have Google Alerts set to notify me about new news related to the craft.
The process is similar for my books but it’s interesting because it’s a more short-term, intense research process. My blogs are ongoing so the research is a long-term, ongoing process but it’s done a little bit at a time. The book are intended to come out in a certain period of time so I do similar research but I immerse myself in it really completely and totally for a shorter period of time (a few months to a year). For my most recent book I did all of the same type of research as I would for my blog, plus I read a lot of professional journals and I interviewed two dozen people about their own related experiences.
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
Self-imposed, flexible deadlines are what work for me best. I do take deadlines seriously and really hate to ever be late submitting writing that’s for a publication or for someone else’s project. For my own work, I create self-imposed deadlines. For my blogs, that means writing about certain topics and certain days and keeping that schedule. For my books, it means having a general plan for the month I intend for the book to come out. However, I allow for some flexibility. The deadline gets 90% of the work to the page but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice that final 10% of quality just to meet a specific self-imposed deadline.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I start writing first so I can see where the passion for the topic is going to take me. Once I’ve exhausted the free writing energy, that’s when I sit down and make an outline. This provides the structure to get the rest of the work done. Then I write some more.
If your book is available in print, how does it feel to hold a book that has your name on the cover?
I absolutely love printed books and of course keep a copy of each of mine around the house. I’m especially proud of Crochet Saved My Life because I worked with a terrific local photographer for the cover and I think the cover design is impactful and beautiful.
Description: In the worst throes of depression I found myself sobbing on the bathroom floor, the tip of a kitchen knife pointed into my wrist. I was aching to break the flesh and bring the pain to an end. Through sheer force of will, I pried my own desperate hands open and replaced the knife with a crochet hook. Then I crocheted to save my life.
In this book, you will get to know me through my story of depression and healing. And you will get to know other women as well. You will meet Aurore who crochets to stay in touch with reality as she deals with ongoing psychiatric hallucinations. You will meet Laurie who made a new life with crochet after years of a life filled with abuse. You will meet Tammy whose crochet helps her with the ups and downs of living with Chronic Lyme Disease. You will meet Liza who crochets through the anxiety of having temporary bouts of blindness caused by an undiagnosed health condition.
The two dozen women whose stories are shared in this book are the women who hook to heal. We are not alone. Studies shows that crocheters are numerous; research and anecdotal evidence show that people of all ages, from all walks of life, with all types of health conditions may find healing through their hooks and yarn. Join us on our journey.