I anticipated Kathy Cano-Murillo's appearance for Authors @ The Teague. The author of the novel Waking Up in the Land of Glitter is familiar to readers throughout the Valley because of her long-time column, The Crafty Chica, for the Arizona Republic. I wasn't disappointed when I expected a fun program.
Before the program even started, Kathy's fans were showing her their crafts. She told a teen that she does random acts of craftiness, and, at holiday time, gives ornaments out to clerks in stores when she thinks they need them. She also gave us peeks at her next books, telling us she has a Mexican bakery in the third book, so she was heading to La Purisima Bakery in Glendale after the program. And, she said La Perla Cafe in Glendale is in her second book.
After the introduction, she said so many books are set in New York or L.A. But, Cano-Murillo was raised here, and her parents and grand-parents grew up in Phoenix. They have a lot of stories about the area, and, at 45, Kathy has a lot of stories to tell as well. There are a lot of cool things here, and, as an artist and crafter she can showcase different aspects of the Valley in her books.
Everyone thinks Kathy Cano-Murillo was a crafter before she was an author, but she has been writing much longer than she's been crafting. She remembers writing in fifth grade when her teacher told them to write about something that made them happy. Kathy went home, and deliberately provoked her family in order to get something to write about. She loved Erma Bombeck back then, and wrote her stories as if they were sitcoms. When her parents when to school for parent/teacher conferences, the teachers gathered around, and said we love Kathy's stories. We loved the story of the cupcake fight. And, Kathy's parents said, you told them about that? The entire family got into a cupcake fight one evening. Cano-Murillo loved the reaction to her stories. She had the writing bug, and planned to be a writer throughout high school and college.
Kathy's husband is a painter and musician, and he's the one who got her into crafts. At one time, they were actually too good, with an enormous business and two national sales reps and 300 accounts. But, Cano-Murillo had a family life, and two kids, and still had the dream of writing. She wanted to work at the newspaper. So, she took a job as a customer service rep, and hated it. It was just complaints. Was this the end of her dream? One day, she just didn't go into work, telling them she had pneumonia. Then, a job came up in the tearsheet room. She worked her way into the newsroom. Then, she volunteered for stories. Then, they asked her to write a craft column.
In 2003, Cano-Murillo was blogging, and it was the time when editors were looking at blogs for book ideas. Two editors asked her if she was thinking about writing a novel. Kathy thought maybe it was a sign from the universe. Maybe she needed to do this. She wanted to tell writers that National Novel Writing Month made her buckle down and write. November is the month, and if you participate, you just write. Don't second guess yourself. By the end of the month, there's a structure for the manuscript.
Then, an agent told her the novel was a mess. He couldn't even read it. So, Cano-Murillo set it aside. Then, when she was booked to speak about crafts at a writing convention, she listened to authors, and knew she could write a novel.
In 2007, Cano-Murillo's novel sold, in a two book deal. It was a lot of work, and her husband pushed her. She knows she was meant to do it. She said you have to go through fire, and get burned, to come out the other side.
Kathy said her book, Waking Up in the Land of Glitter, is a fun, fast read. It's set in Phoenix. She wanted to capture the emotion behind crafters. She wanted to show them overcoming things, and learning new things. Her first book shines a light on crafters, and how they work.
The second book, Miss Scarlett's School of Patternless Sewing, will be out in March. The book features a patternless sewing class. Cano-Murillo taught a class with a patternless purse, and people freaked. The book discusses the patterns we're given when we're born. Families give us a pattern, and some people follow it, and others don't. This book is set in Glendale. Scarlett works as a high end fashion designer in Phoenix, and thinks she's going to get to teach a sewing class in the building where she works. But, her boss turns her down, and she ends up teaching the class in a record store in Glendale.
The third book, Miracle of the Sacred Cupcake, is about cake decorating. All of the books have different characters. The second book was started from scratch, so it was easy. But, it was difficult to come up with different characters again for the third. That was extra work.
Waking Up in the Land of Glitter features three women. Star is a Bohemian. She wants to be an artist, but she was raised with too much openness. She's lazy when it comes to goals. Her best friend, Ofelia, is crafty. But, some of her crafts are so over-the-top that they're horrible. The third woman is a local television personality, Chloe Chavez. Kathy read a chapter from the book, in which Star needs help with centerpieces for a big craft convention, and Ofelia suggests tumbleweed.
Asked about submitting material, Kathy, who has written nonfiction craft books as well as fiction, answered for both types of books. She said, with nonfiction, an author submits a proposal before writing. Outline the book. Talk about comparative titles. Why is this book different? Cite specific titles.
If writing fiction, write the whole book. Agents won't look at you unless the book is done. There's a difference between talking about writing a book, and actually doing it. People must show they take it seriously and submit a full manuscript.
How did she start with crafts? She originally started crafts when she was manager of her husband's band. She always danced while he performed, and he told her he was jealous watching her dance. So, he suggested she make something to sell at concerts. She made watercolor paper earrings, and they did well. Then they sold them at a consignment store. They started taking orders, and branched out, for more income. She did research to find other niches to fill.
When Cano-Murillo did her craft column, she also worked with local channels 3 and 12. Kathy said personally, she's all about colors, purples and greens, reds and oranges. But, she was writing for a different reader, someone Martha Stewart focused who did scrapbooking. She had to design for a mainstream audience. She did the column for ten years, taking Kathy down a few notches. Instead of vivid colors and glitter and varnish, she accommodated the mainstream reader.
Kathy left the newspaper in 2007. She had an offer to do her own Crafty Chica line. She loved her job at the newspaper, but in the last few years there, the editor wasn't her favorite. It made it worse when she loved something, and someone took it away. So, Cano-Murillo thought the lesson was it was time to do something new. Duncan Enterprises, later ILovetoCreate, asked her what her wishlist was to leave the paper and work for them full-time. So, Kathy came up with an outrageous wishlist, and they met it. She did the column for another year. But, it reached the point where she couldn't do a book, a product line, and a column. She had to let something go. Cano-Murillo's last Crafty Chica column was in 2008.
Cano-Murillo said the crafting industry is fun, with so much drama. Asked if glitter has a bad reputation, Kathy said she recently did a workshop with a brown bag craft. And, a woman said, "Wow, glitter adds glamour to a brown bag." Kathy laughed and said anything adds glamour to a brown bag. She said there are book characters at some of those conventions and workshops. At one held here in Phoenix, for a week, there was a Steampunk Barbie class. They took a Barbie doll, torched it, and worked with it.
Before signing books, Kathy Cano-Murillo read from next year's book, set in Glendale, Miss Scarlett's School of Patternless Sewing. We hope to have her back next March when that book is released.
Kathy Cano-Murillo's website is www.craftychica.com
Waking Up in the Land of Glitter by Kathy Cano-Murillo. Grand Central Publishing, ©2010. ISBN
9780446509244 (paperback), 336p.