How Long?

“Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.”

-Elizabeth Zimmermann

So taken was I by a ball of yarn recently, a small amount of alpaca in a mouthwatering shade of mustard, I dusted off the knitting needles. I was back to work and there was a chill in the air, and it all pointed to one thing: I needed to knit a new scarf. Obviously.

I cast on and off a few times, losing my nerve and eventually my patience as I grappled with quite possibly the world’s easiest pattern – a four-stitch repeat over 24 stitches, I mean, come on! Eventually I got the hang of it, and after some preliminary cursing and knitting back a few rows, I was on my way.

With every stitch I loved the yarn more and more. It was soft as butter and it held the surprise of red bits hidden in the yellow: gorgeous. As I knat, I wondered how long the scarf would be. Long enough to wrap around a few times and tie in a knot, I hoped.

Which took me back to Writing Camp. Ours was a small, but keen, class of six, and I daresay we were the luckiest of the lucky to have been assigned Alistair MacLeod as our instructor. He was most accommodating, and answered our questions with gentle humour and an ease that took away any shyness on the part of his students. Our hands flew and the questions abounded.

One of my favourites:

“How long should a short story be?”

Imagine the opportunity for an emerging writer to ask one of the greatest short story writers of all time such a question! We all held our breath and awaited the Sage’s reply. He raised his eyebrows and sat back in his chair.

“A short story should be as long as a piece of string.”

It took a moment to process his words. Then we all smiled and nodded.

Last night I finished the scarf. It’s not as long as I thought it would be. But it wraps around my neck a few times and it’s soft, warm, and pretty.

I’d say it’s about as long as a piece of string.

And as I think of it, my novella isn’t as long as I thought my first book would be. But it turned out all right, too.


Categories: General.