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I've created a line of wooden peg looms to make potholders and projects of other sizes. Read the story behind the looms and check out my etsy shop.

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Good News I Didn’t Expect and a Call for Story Ideas

For the last couple months I’ve been preparing to write my last art and craft column for the local newspaper I’ve been writing for since 1998. After I received a contract termination letter in early November, I resigned myself to the fact that I had been canned from my freelance position.

This was a first for me. Until that letter arrived, I had never been terminated from a job – ever. Even though the newspaper was terminating all the freelance contracts and intellectually I knew the letter was not intended as a personal attack, I couldn’t help but feel like a total loser.

The letter mentioned that someone from the company might “reach out” if they wanted to continue working with me, but I wasn’t holding my breath. I surrendered to the universe and did not plead for my job or try to make a case for why they should keep me on when the reorganized newspaper company launches in early February. Instead I just focused on moving on, wondering what I would feel like once I shed my newspaper columnist title. Even though I’ve been publishing my own magazine for more than a year, it’s nice to have a legitimate title that I didn’t make up myself. There’s a certain credibility in that.

Last week, my husband and I went on a walk around the neighborhood during which we brainstormed ways to expand my handmade business and publish more of my work. I also lamented a bit about how I was going to thank my readers for giving me the opportunity to write exclusively about what I loved for roughly three years. Had they not responded positively, the jig would have been up much sooner. How was I going to wrap up the best print journalism gig I’ve ever had?

Turns out I won’t have to figure that out – at least not yet. Jeff and I returned home from our walk to find a thick envelope in the mailbox. It was a contract for me to keep writing my column for an expanded statewide audience.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, not sure what to make of it.

It’s no secret that I LOVE writing about art and craft, so it should come as no surprise that after a couple days of reflection, I decided to take the company up on its offer. (And, yes, I am aware that this opens me up to the very real possibility of being terminated from the same gig a second time.)

The strange part is that I still feel like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me. It really stunk to receive a termination letter followed by weeks of corporate silence. I had no reason to believe I would be part of the new media product and I was preparing myself to show as much grace as possible in the event that a lower-priced replacement writer was brought in. I just prayed that he or she would at least know the difference between knit and crochet. I had trouble sleeping even though I was telling people that I was “moving on.” And despite the fact that the newspaper column is not a lucrative gig by any means, it’s more than just a job to me. I love talking to people about what they make. I enjoy having a weekly dialog with newspaper readers, and I have a special place in my heart for those who don’t have any desire to go online and follow me on Twitter.

And, sadly, I’m one of the lucky ones. Many of my former colleagues lost their jobs in the latest round of cuts (or the two or three rounds before that), with many of them deciding to call it quits and exit the unstable journalism industry once and for all. As a society we lose each time another seasoned journalist loses a job or decides to change careers.

I’m not sure how long it will take for the industry to stabilize, but I hope it happens soon. Journalism is key to protecting our democracy. (Yes, I recognize that my column is more entertainment driven than democracy-protecting, but you get my drift. And for the record, I’ve done my share of hard news coverage and still perfectly capable of it.)

So I guess this means I’m back, even though I never actually left. My apologies to those who I upset with news of my termination. Now I’m wishing I could have spared you all the drama. And thanks to all of you who have written kind notes and said encouraging things about my work. I continue to be amazed by the kindness of strangers and kindred spirits who seem to know exactly when to send me a show of support. Thank you so much!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to be a newspaper columnist and plan to make the most of the experience while it lasts. I hope you’ll come along with me on this next leg of the journey. Since my new audience stretches beyond West Michigan, I plan to adjust my coverage accordingly and I’m excited to see where this leads. You’re invited to send your story ideas to jennifer@craftsanity.com and help me cover the art & craft in the mitten like never before. You can start by introducing yourself and telling me what you make.

Here’s to second chances and unexpected good news.

P.S. I had my husband take the ridiculous photo at the top of this post in the freezing cold after I signed my new contract. I don’t usually sport giant doilies on my back AND rainbow aprons when I go out on column interviews – although that would explain the initial termination. : ) I also don’t draw very well, so the photo was my attempt at creating a caricature of myself. Did it work? Not so sure. Ah, well, celebrate your quirks, my friends.

Comments

Comment from Kristyn
Time: January 15, 2012, 10:35 pm

That is great news! Congratulations.

Comment from Tami In Denver
Time: January 15, 2012, 10:42 pm

Congrats! Too bad you had to go through all that drama!

Comment from Abbyglassenberg
Time: January 15, 2012, 10:44 pm

Jennifer- This is such good news. My heart went out to you these past few months as you thought you’d have to wind your column down. I know we’ve only spoken on the phone a few times, but I feel like you are my crafty friend and I’m so happy that the new chiefs at the paper have recognized your talent. Hooray!!

Comment from Jennifer
Time: January 15, 2012, 10:52 pm

That’s wonderful news! That is such a good opportunity – ie/ with wider distribution ” an expanded state wide audience”!!

Comment from Deb
Time: January 15, 2012, 10:59 pm

This is fantastic news! I’m in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and I sure hope your expanded statewide audience includes us. We have a local paper that isn’t great, but I continue to subscribe because I value what it brings to our community. I grew up in Detroit, and I’m still shocked that the Freep and News aren’t separate anymore. Every time we lose a paper or journalist, we lose an important way to spread ideas and generate discussion.

Comment from Lisa Gutierrez
Time: January 15, 2012, 11:11 pm

wonderful news!
with the doily on your back, you look like some sort of crafty superhero. :)

Comment from LynnH
Time: January 16, 2012, 12:27 am

Celebrate one’s quirks? Normally that’s pretty easy for me, today not so. Thanks for a nudge back onto the yellow brick road.

Comment from Lois Carpenter
Time: January 16, 2012, 5:28 am

Whew! For you, your family AND US. Best of luck, waiting with anticipation for your ramped up version!

Comment from toni in florida
Time: January 16, 2012, 6:12 am

Congratulations on the reprieve! I went through the first part of your story when my former employer decided to outsource its publications department, putting me and one other out of a job. I knew it wasn’t really personal, but it sure sucked nonetheless. I felt like I should have been able to reverse the move through my own sheer awesomeness (as if the decision weren’t financial… which it was), but I’d failed somehow. It’s been 5 1/2 years and it still stings a little.

And Lisa Gutierrez is right, you *do* look like a superhero!

Comment from Sarah
Time: January 16, 2012, 6:16 am

Wow! Great news. What an amazing relief! Much love x

Comment from Bonney
Time: January 16, 2012, 8:47 am

Happy to hear the good news!! Wish I got your newspaper!!

Comment from Julie
Time: January 16, 2012, 9:16 am

What wild news! So happy for you and I’m eager to see what this opening door reveals. Life certainly isn’t boring!

I laughed when I read the phrase “art & craft in the mitten.” (Maybe people from Michigan don’t even blink when they hear that phrase, but it always gives me pause.) Maybe you could creatively use that as a theme for your column?

Again, congrats!

Comment from Julie
Time: January 16, 2012, 9:29 am

a story idea…
I notice that there are knit/crochet projects that I totally attribute to my grandmother’s generation, e.g. granny square afghans, acrylic slippers, pixie hats, crocheted clowns. Some of these continue to be popular projects for crafters today. But I was thinking, what are the projects today that future generations will associate with us? There sure are a lot of trendy patterns in Ravelry that get really popular. Sometimes when I dress my sons in handknits, I’m aware that I love the garments more than they do. I’m thinking of a February Baby Sweater, Milo vest, and pixie hat in particular. As I cast off a project, it sometimes crosses my mind that I could potentially be teased in the future for “making my child wear this.” And then I throw caution to the wind and cast on another, chuckling that wild-colored hats might be something my grown-up boys will remember, perhaps with an eye roll I’ll choose to ignore.

Comment from DianeP
Time: January 16, 2012, 9:35 am

Congratulations Jennifer! I’m very, very happy for you and wish you every bit of success – you deserve it!

Comment from Tanya
Time: January 16, 2012, 10:33 am

Congrats! I’m not sure how far out you are planning, but knitmichigan.org happens in early Feb

Comment from linda
Time: January 16, 2012, 11:20 am

Fantastic news! Congrats!

Comment from Katie
Time: January 16, 2012, 2:02 pm

Congrats!!!! I ALWAYS read your craft column and I enjoy your blog. Great news!!

Lowell, MI

Comment from Beverly
Time: January 16, 2012, 3:03 pm

Congratulations!

Comment from MzTallulah
Time: January 16, 2012, 3:11 pm

This is great news for you and your family (and your readers, of course!), Jennifer. I guess that we all could tell how affected you were by the end of the column, even though you bravely tried to hide it, and this uneepected silver lining makes me hopeful for all of us crafters and makers.

Comment from Sabrina
Time: January 16, 2012, 5:55 pm

So happy for you!!!!! Awesome:)

Comment from Elizabeth
Time: January 16, 2012, 6:28 pm

Yay!! Congratulations, my friend!! :)

Comment from Sarah in Houston
Time: January 16, 2012, 8:54 pm

I am so happy for you and for us, too. It would have been a great loss for all of us.

Comment from judy
Time: January 17, 2012, 12:55 pm

I LOVE your column. So glad you won’t have to give it up – until YOU want to.

Comment from Melissa Boniface
Time: January 17, 2012, 2:47 pm

so excited! congrats to you! i am glad we don’t have to give up our craftsanity on sunday mornings!

Comment from raebeth
Time: January 17, 2012, 8:27 pm

It’s great to here you’ve been re-employed! Good Luck to you & hope it brings you wider success! You have so much going on, I don’t know how you keep it all together! You rock!!!
Please don’t give up the podcast though unless your writing comes to one of the Chicago newspapers!

Comment from Jan Stave
Time: January 18, 2012, 1:15 am

YAHOO for you and your family! You are very talented and I am so happy for you!

Comment from Linda in the UK
Time: January 18, 2012, 4:33 am

So pleased for you, although I don’t live in your area to see the articles, keep on crafting, and talking about it. You are great.

Comment from Julie
Time: January 19, 2012, 8:09 am

another story idea: what craft are you? You know how there are surveys out there that ask you 10-20 ?’s and then determine which Jane Austen character you are, or something similar? What if you made a survey that directed people to which craft they’d like based on personality? And then you could do a series exploring each craft. Something that would encourage novices to get started, to make craft less intimidating and enjoyable to a variety of types. It seems that people who enjoy puzzles and math might like traditional quilting, people who are more free-flowing might like watercolors or clay, and people who are practical-minded might like sewing for everyday use or gardening. Just a thought. Okay, I’ll stop sharing story ideas.

Pingback from CraftSanity – A blog and podcast for those who love everything handmade » A few things before I get back to work…
Time: January 19, 2012, 3:34 pm

[...] I’m back at my computer, I want to thank all of the lovely people who left comments on my last post about getting to keep my newspaper column. I really appreciate all the support and encouragement. [...]

Comment from lisa @studiojewel
Time: January 20, 2012, 1:43 am

i’m so glad. i wondered FOR you. and as i am teaching my children the value of the written word. the value of journalism in any form. i’m so happy to know you will be continuing to inspire all of us! *throws confetti in air*

Comment from Diane
Time: January 23, 2012, 5:24 pm

What wonderful news! I am so excited to hear you can continue to spread the joy of crafting far and wide! Keep up the great work.

Comment from jennifer
Time: January 24, 2012, 1:28 am

Thanks for all your kind words. It’s a fun gig and I’m very happy to be able to continue.

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