Thursday, July 7, 2011


The Learning Curve

Learning new skills invigorates and changes your perspective. Recently I took a week long ‘hooking’ course at Trent University. I learned a new vocabulary and new skills but more importantly I met interesting women, and one man, involved in this ancient craft. The youngest participants were in their thirties and the oldest was 97. Everyone expressed their pleasure at being there, at meeting old friends and welcomed those of us who were new. One legally blind 93 year old amazed us for she hooked within the pattern boundaries defined by masking tape a friend had painstakingly applied to the ongoing work.

If asked to characterize the group the words friendly, welcoming and non-competitive would come to mind.

Of course I purchased all the tools and am now guaranteed many hours of guilt free TV watching while I produce chair pads, a footstool cover and pillows. I’m pretty sure I’ll never make an enormous wall hanging or a rug as both require a degree of precision and exactness that I know I don’t possess.

Along with the lessons there was a display of hookers’ work. Some used purchased kits while others worked on original designs. The variety astounded me. In addition to this show of completed work on Thursday night we attended a ‘show and tell’ evening. Each participant displayed what they’d worked on during the week and talked about their reason for choosing that particular project.

The next morning, our teacher provided a list of web sites, books and magazines for us to turn to for information and inspiration. At home this week I checked out several sites. What joy and exuberance I found on some of them. They also had cross references that led to other interesting sites.

Over the years I’ve taken many courses some of which, like quilting, have led to lifelong obsessions. Others, like welding, proved interesting but didn’t change my
life. I do not have acetylene tanks tucked away ready to create garden sculptures from rusted iron. And, while I enjoyed a ‘using power tools’ course and did make a garden bench these skills are not ones I use. When I think back to the courses I’ve taken I marvel at the interests I’ve had but most of all I celebrate the urge that has made me want to learn new skills.

This past weekend PBS had a feature about achievers aged over ninety and, diverse though they were, each one had a zest for life and a determination to move on, to do things, to refuse to sit back and take it easy.

Shouldn’t writing be like that too? Shouldn’t we get on with it, embrace e books, try new topics and new ways of expressing ourselves? Do you agree that creating a book or a story should be fun and challenging?

Joan Boswell is a member of the Ladies Killing Circle and co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.


  1. My Mom was a 'hooker' also, Joan! I still have many of her works around my house and treasure their beauty along with remembering the many hours of pleasure they gave her. I'm just hoping I'll have more patience with the writing process than I have had with any of the crafts.

  2. I think just getting to ninety would be an achievement. But wouldn't it be wonderful if, like Dame P.D. James at that age, we could still be writing stories that others would want to read?

  3. I love your approach, Joan. And I agree - fun and challenging and incorporating life's adventures.