All posts by Sonja Hakala

I have been a professional writer since 1987. I've written for newspapers, magazines, worked in the book publishing industry, and published novels and non-fiction books. In addition, I've guided numerous authors through the process of independent publishing, and offer workshops in that same vein. I'm the founder of the Parkinson's Comfort Project and over the course of six years, we gathered and gave away over 500 handmade quilts to people with Parkinson's disease.

Journal (Journey) Cover

Journal cover made during a workshop put on by Peggy Notestine
Journal cover made during a workshop put on by Peggy Notestine

I have wanted to do this for such a long time, make a cover for the journals I use to write my books, the daily log I start every year on my birthday, and the others I use to keep track of the books I’ve read, the marketing I’ve done, etc. etc.

Yeah, a lot of writing going on over here.

So when a member of my quilt guild was ready to share a pattern for these great journal covers, I was there!

There were about 20 of us at a workshop last Friday night, sewing machines at the ready, fabric in hand, and we were off.

Part of the technique we used will be familiar to folks who quilt because it’s flip-and-sew. Each cover has a layer of Peltex 70 inside to keep it sturdy, and the lining can be that fabric that you wish you’d never added to your stash.

This cover was done from start to finish in just over two hours.

So much fun.

More to come, that’s for sure.

Carding in Upper Valley Life Magazine

UVL story-page 1Carding, Vermont is getting around.

This month, Upper Valley Life magazine published a nice piece on our favorite town in the Green Mountain state.

This image is one of two pages about The Road Unsalted. The article was written by Kim Gifford and photographed by Jon Gilbert Fox.

Cool, eh?

I have to admit I wasn’t quite sure what Jon had in mind when he first described his idea for the photograph. But I’ve worked with Jon before and I know he’s got great instincts so I called the folks who are in The Road Unsalted and asked if they could come for a photo shoot.

They were so good, taking time from their busy days, to make this happen.

They are, from left to right, Nancy Graham who made the quilt that’s on the cover of my book; my husband Jay who’s a talented woodworker; Jay is holding our cocker spaniel Goldie who is the inspiration for Nearly Wolfe; Carrie Fradkin who’s a terrific mosaic artist; Joanne Lendaro who’s a long arm quilter among other talents, and Jeff Sass, our metal sculptor friend who lives up the hill.

Just sharing.

The Road Unsalted is the first Carding, Vermont novel
The Road Unsalted is the first Carding, Vermont novel

It’s Just a Dandy Lion

Remember in the movie, The Wizard of Oz, when the Cowardly Lion sings his introductory verses in “If I Only Had the Nerve”? One of my favorite lines is when he describes himself as “just a dandy lion.”
Dandelion for web
I’ve always loved dandelions. Unlike some lawn freaks, I welcome them in my grass (though I have to admit they get evicted from the flower and veggie beds during the summer).
Dandelion in seed for web

Dandelion seed closeup for web
Dandelion seed closeup by J.C. Davis

And it’s a standing joke around here that I refuse to mow the lawn (my very least favorite warm season chore) until we can’t find our little Goldie among the dandelions.

But I was reminded the other day about another good reason not to cut these cheery yellow blooms in early spring. They are an important food source for bees as they emerge from their hives.

Dandelions are only one of the plants I welcome in the lawn. I now have grape hyacinth, three different colors of violet, a wild leek (that we hope will spread everywhere), wild strawberries, and creeping Charlie. Plus, I just put in my first ajuga which, judging by my sister’s experience, will soon spread everywhere.

So how do I get the grass not to grow among them?

Sweet Little Quilt

Triangle quilt made for the Parkinson's Comfort Project
Triangle quilt made for the Parkinson’s Comfort Project

There are some days when it’s just so worth going to the mailbox.

Imagine my surprise when our mail delivery guy (an intrepid and friendly soul named Charlie) brought this smallish box to my door the other morning.

The address label was not one I recognized but when I opened the box, I knew exactly why that package had arrived at my door.

Inside was the sweetest quilt made of simple half-square triangle blocks in a color palette that immediately makes everyone who sees it go “Awwwww.”

This quilt was made by a Diane Lambert from Danville, Vermont, a woman I don’t believe I know. It is a contribution to the Parkinson’s Comfort Project.

The blocks are 4 inches finished which means they must have started life as 4 3/4 to 5-inch squares.

It was quilted just right, simple swirling circular shapes, and it must have gone through the washer and dryer because it has a wonderful softness to it that makes it snuggly.

Wow, if I keep talking this way, I’m going to have to go take a nap—or make a cup of tea.

I think I’ll vote for the tea.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share this wonderful gift to the Parkinson’s Comfort Project. I know that whoever receives this quilt will be delighted.

Fiddleheads and Violets and Trillium, Oh My

Fiddlehead ferns emerging
Fiddlehead ferns emerging

Everything in the woods changes on a daily basis at this time of year.

Tiny purple violet
Tiny purple violet


Trillium about to bloom
Trillium about to bloom

Last week, there were no fiddlehead ferns.

Today, they are about twelve inches tall.

Last week, the pursed lips of violet leaves were just above the ground.

Now the flowers are starting to bloom.

And the deep purple of the trillium are starting to dot the understory.

There’s a saying that you cannot step twice in the same river.

In spring in Vermont, you can’t step twice into the same forest.

In Celebration of Good Design

Block magazine cover
I’ve become a fan of Jenny Doan, the owner of the Missouri Star Quilt Company. Or at least one of the owners because I think it’s probably more accurate to say that this is a family-owned business.

She has such a breezy style in her tutorials that even though I might not necessarily want to do the quilt she’s demonstrating, I just enjoy watching.

And watching is the only thing I’ve done up until a couple of weeks ago when my attention was caught by a scrappy quilt made with a ruler that will cut blade shapes used most commonly in a pattern known as Dresden plate.

So I actually made an order and while I was online (you know how this goes), my attention veered toward a new magazine put out by the company (which is still something of a newbie).

It’s called Block and I got my first issue in the mail the other day and as one graphic designer to another, I was impressed.

Block is all Missouri Star all the time, no other ads cluttering up the pages. The photos are great, instructions clearly written.

It’s so well done, I just have to share.

Narcissus narcissus narcissus

Narcissus 2014 for web
For beauty,
Narcissus had no peer.
His comely nature
Did dispose him
To revere his
Own reflection to the
Exclusion of all others,
Including dear Echo,
The nymph who loved
Him wisely but not well.

Narcissus wasted away but
Left a nodding flower
That dearly loves the water,
Bending its own face toward the pool.

Echo, as we said,
Was a dearly nymph with an
Uncomely tongue.
She had the temerity to voice her true
Feelings about the goddess Hera
In the Olympian’s hearing.

We all know how that ended.

Not so well for Echo, echo, echo.