Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

Two Roads Diverged & I Took Both
(With apologies to Robert Frost!)
By Lois Winston

March is National Crafts Month. I write a crafting cozy series. So I thought I’d talk today about how two conversations—one about crafts and one about mysteries—changed the trajectory of my life.

When I was in college, I taught myself embroidery and needlepoint. Because I was majoring in graphic design and illustration, I designed my own projects rather than buying kits, which were also too expensive a luxury for someone putting herself through school on scholarships, student loans, and various part-time jobs. I even incorporated needlework into my junior year end-of-term project in my photography class.

Fast-forward a few years and I’m now a new mother and a freelance graphic designer. One day I was in a needlework shop and overheard a conversation between the shop owner and a customer. The customer mentioned having sold some designs to a needlework company located a few miles from where I lived. When I got home, I called the company and set up an appointment to show my designs. A week later I walked out of that initial meeting with an assignment to design a line of counted cross stitch kits. (I went home and quickly taught myself how to do counted cross stitch!)

That assignment led to many more for that company and other kit manufacturers, as well as designing for various craft and needlework magazines, women’s magazines, and book publishers. Over the years I’ve worked as a craft book editor, a design coordinator, and the head designer for several needlework and craft companies. I also traveled the country working trade and consumer shows.

Fast-forward again, this time a few decades. I’m still designing in the craft industry, but I’ve also caught the writing bug and penned several romances and romantic suspense novels. One day my agent called to tell me she’d spoken to an editor who’s looking for a crafting mystery series. Given my background, my agent thought I’d be the perfect person to write one.

Crafting mysteries? At the time I had no idea there was such a thing. So I set about doing a bit of research. I discovered that most crafting mysteries featured an amateur sleuth who either owned a specialty craft shop or was a crafter of one specific craft, such as candle-making, pottery, knitting, doll-making, etc. I decided to do something a bit different. Tapping into my own background as a crafts editor, I created a sleuth who works as the crafts editor at a women’s magazine. That way I could feature different crafts in each book in the series. Thus was born the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

If you haven’t checked out the series yet, the ebook version of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, is currently on sale through the end of March for only .99 cents. You can find links here.

I’m currently working on the ninth full-length book in the series. There are also three connecting novellas. At this point Anastasia and I are pretty much joined at the hip. And it all began thanks to two conversations, one about crafts and one about writing.

Have you ever had a life-changing experience spring from an ordinary conversation or activity?

Post a comment for a chance to win a print or ebook copy of Revenge of the Crafty Corpse, the third book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. (Print editions for U.S. residents only.)

Comments

  1. A random conversation last year with my mother (also a mystery fan) led to us realizing there were no mysteries with a certain topic. A casual “Maybe I’ll write one myself” and a lifetime of enjoying to write has me giving it a shot. Don’t know if anyone besides us will ever see it, but who knows what the future holds. If nothing else, it’s been fun.

    kozo8989@hotmail.com

  2. I learned a lot about you I never knew before! Wow, what a fascinating career. I just loved writing, and reading mysteries. Moving near an Indian reservation and meeting a lovely young Indian woman got me started writing my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

  3. Carol Knudtson says

    I’ve had that happen a couple of times. One led to my husband and one led to me starting my own business. Thanks for the giveaway.

  4. Sheila B McNaughton says

    I have been writing for years but mostly small memoir pieces or rants when the mood struck. I didn’t see my self as a writer of fiction until my mom made a request. She was a WWII Irish war bride, having met my soldier father in London. In her mid 80’s she was deep in the woods of Alzheimer’s. She asked me to take her to confession, good Irish Catholic that she was. “Mom, you’re in your 80’s. What could you possibly have to confess?” She looked at me with terror in her eyes and said, “You don’t know what I have done.” I thought your right, I don’t know but I sure could write that story. That was the start of my mystery novel You Don’t Know What I Have Done. The story of a women in her 80’s with Alzheimer’s who begins to tell her daughter of a murder she committed over 60 years ago. The daughter must decide if it is a combination of books or movies or is it the truth?

    • Sheila, what a great idea for a mystery!

      • Sheila B McNaughton says

        Thanks. It took me 5 years to write and 2 years to find a publisher but it is out now. Very excited. Can’t get out and market but doing what I can from home.

        • We’re all in the same boat, Sheila. Eventually life will get back to normal, and you’ll be able to do more marketing. Right now the best thing you can do is start the next book. Good luck!

  5. I can’t think of a specific conversation that steered me toward writing–I always wanted to write! But I am very aware that when we make a decision and go one way, we set ourselves on a path. It’s different from the path not chosen, even if they end up at the same place. That’s most apparent these days as I look toward the future of my writing career: Will I try the agent and larger house route again? Or will I take the less dangerous route of doing it myself? And for the record, I’ve probably sewn your embroidery and counted cross stitch kits. I love crafts and I recommend Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun.

    • Thanks, Maggie! I designed thousands of projects for magazines, books, and kits over the years, so it’s likely that anyone who enjoyed doing counted cross stitch probably stitched at least one of my designs at some point. About 25 years ago I designed a cross stitch nativity for Women’s World. I still occasionally receive emails from people who have stitched it.

  6. Amy Denton says

    Lois,
    The pattern on the cover of Cross Stitch and Country Crafts in your blog journal? I stitched that! I just loved Cross Stitch and Country Crafts and was so sad when it changed into something else. I still have that haunted house.
    That is wild.

    • Wow, Amy! So glad you liked it enough to stitch it. Cross Stitch and Country Crafts was one of about 3 dozen crafts magazines I freelanced for back in the day. Sadly, they’re all gone, as are most of the crafts companies I once worked for.

  7. cminichino says

    A friend was a Sue Grafton fan. One day she laughed and said to me, “She only has the alphabet; you should do the periodic table.” She laughed again. At the time the only thing I’d written was my thesis, but the idea stuck and eventually The Periodic Table Mysteries made their appearance.

    Thanks for the memory, Lois!

  8. I think m comment disappeared, so I’ll just say I enjoyed this post very much. I didn’t realize what a long career you’ve had in crafts and design.

  9. Interesting how so much of what we do comes out of an offhand remark. I discovered essay writing as a teenager, and my college freshman English teacher suggested I try writing fiction. Enjoyed your post very much.

    • Thanks, Susan! I think we all owe quite a bit to our old English teachers. Mine was a stickler for proper grammar. I still remember all those rules she taught us that few people learn these days.

  10. I do lots of crafts and needlework. The series sounds like it would be right up my alley. And it all started for you when you overheard a conversation. Wow!

  11. Lois — fascinating origin story. I have nothing as exciting as far as conversations, but I do know one thing can change your life. In college I went with my roomie to apply for a job at a department store. She interviewed first and was told no openings. I could have left with her, but I figured might as well leave my application. To my surprise they interviewed and hired me right then. And it so happened my future husband already worked at that store. Had I simply walked out with my roomie, who knows where and what I would be now!

    • Diane, I met my husband when his grandmother insisted he get in touch with a distant cousin’s daughter who was attending the same university. They didn’t hit it off, but she and his roommate did. They wound up marrying. Then she she decided to introduce me to her husband’s ex-roommate, and the rest is history.

  12. cherylhollon says

    A casual comment turned me towards a writing career. I worked as a project engineer and program manager for a flight simulation company. Part of the job was to write proposals to the US Government to get more work. At one of the final management reviews for a major project, my boss looked up from my submission and said, “You know for an engineer, you can really write.” That planted the seed for my next job — mystery author.

  13. When I was writing futuristic romance and the market took a dive, my agent said, “Why don’t you write a straight mystery series?” I’d put a mystery into my last romance novel and this seemed to be a natural progression. And so my Bad Hair Day series was born.

  14. Two conversations influenced me — a journalism teacher who encouraged me to pick a different college than I was thinking about because she didn’t think I’d be happy being a straight journalist — and many many years later, when the husband of a friend, hearing a reading of an organizational skit I’d written, told me I should write it made an impression on me..

    • Debra, call it fate or serendipity, or whatever, isn’t it amazing how the smallest comment can make such a huge difference in our lives?