The Road Unsalted

A quilt top from the Carding Quilt collection

Last November, I started penning a novel. Nothing unusual about that, per se, because most writers (whether they are published or not) are penning a novel.

The story arc for this one—its main plot thread—is one that I’ve carried around in my head for a number of years, and I’ve started at least four or five books based on this idea. But each time, I abandoned the effort because there was something about it I did not like.

Sometimes it was the tone. Sometimes it just grew like topsy in a way that did not suit. Whatever the reason, I have shards of this book scattered through my writing life.

Then last November, without any visible planning on my part, I opened up a notebook and started writing the first Carding Chronicle, The Road Unsalted.

Without any effort, apparently, the characters and the town and the accoutrements necessary to the plot showed up, almost as if I’d called a meeting that they’d been waiting for. I found myself happily anticipating getting up in the morning to write (it’s the second thing I do, right after making a cup of tea with milk and honey) as well as thinking about what and who would appear in the next chapter as I fell asleep.

I’m almost done with the first draft, and expect to start the rewriting process later this month. From there, it will be on track to be published in early September.

The Carding Chronicles are contemporary novels, each one taking place in the town of Carding, Vermont, population 5,000, located in the Corvus River valley on the shores of Half Moon Pond, a great swimming place between the tumble of Great Carding Falls, and the marshy drop off to Little Carding Falls.

Carding’s claim to fame in the outside world is a remarkable school founded in the late 19th century, The Carding Academy of Traditional Arts. Carding Academy was founded by two women, Emily Willis and Kitty Wolfe. Emily came to Carding from New York City with her husband, the writer Hanson Willis. Kitty was married to the founder of the town newspaper, the Carding Chronicle. The goal of the school is the preservation and expansion of what most people would call folk arts such as quilting, wood carving, furniture and instrument making, knitting, printing and book making as well as painting and sculpture.

The academy has had its ups and downs financially. But it’s been on an even keel since the 1970s when Kitty’s grand-daughter, Edith, took over as the school’s director.

Edie, as everyone calls her, pushes the boundaries of folk traditions, welcoming everyone who has a vision they want to express. She also has this uncanny knack of sensing the swirl of emotions as they move through Carding, and using this knowledge to nudge events. It’s not a quality that everyone in town appreciates.

The quilt top pictured here was the first one made by Carding’s most famous designer, Chloe Willis Brown, when she was just seventeen. At that time, Chloe was about to leave Carding for college, an adventure she viewed with trepidation. That summer, she cut up a number of dresses, skirts and shirts that she’d collected since she was a young girl, fashioning their cloth into a quilt to bring with her.

 

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