March 16, 2010

Parenting, crafting are food for Soule

SHARON ROSS

— By

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Amanda Soule is a lesson in intention. Two years ago, she got a call that may be every writer's dream: a publisher asked her to write a book.

But what seemed like sheer luck was actually a few years in the making, and is part of a growing trend in the publishing world.

After blogging for a year or so (www.soulemama.com) about parenting life, Soule and her photos, vignettes and craft ideas gained a following among crafting circles. Then, when she was intending to start a book project, her blog caught the attention of Shambhala Publishers.

''Steve (Soule's partner) and I had talked about setting aside time for me to write a 'zine, a newsletter, or a book about family life,'' Soule said. ''I started to pursue the idea, and a few days later, the publisher called.''

Her first book, ''The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections,'' was released in April by Trumpeter books, an imprint of Shambhala.

The book is a mix of how-to projects and meditations about living creatively, from felting and finger knitting to bringing moments of play to everyday rituals. Soule has shared all the activities in the book with her own children: Calvin 7, Ezra 5, and Adelaide, 2 1/2.

Call it intention, or being in the right place at the right time, but Soule's approach to parenting and crafting proved appealing to Shambhala, because the company made it clear it was looking for a different kind of parenting book.

It also helped that Soule's blog had a built-in audience.

''Our concepts really meshed,'' said Soule, who majored in English and women's studies at the University of Maine.

The process of writing the book, from the proposal to revisions, took about a year. Midway through writing it, Soule discovered that a chapter about resourcefulness could blossom into something more. So she worked with Shambhala to develop her second book, which is due out next year.

This kind of creative insight is also evident in Soule's photography and craftwork. She has been designing and selling her ''vintage-inspired handmade items'' online and in local shops, such as Edith & Edna on Portland's Exchange Street, where she is showing her photographs and embroidered works through the end of May.

Although the past two years have been busy, Soule has found creative ways to be with her family while pursuing her craft. She said many of her ideas come to her while she's spending time with her children, whether she's making peanut-butter sandwiches or helping them embroider.

''I'm always jotting things down, rolling sentences around in my head,'' she said. At the end of the day, she can put her thoughts to paper. When she gets 20 free minutes, she can write a quick piece.

Soule hopes her book can help parents learn similar ways to connect with their children, despite a busy schedule.

''My hope is that there's a project someone responds to in the book, and they incorporate creativity into what they're already doing,'' she said.

Sharon Ross is a freelance writer and English Adjunct at Central and Southern Maine Community Colleges.

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