About the author:
Sandra Millett (Mill et), is a multifaceted author, lecturer, stitchery teacher (including quilting and haute couture), and a quilt show judge. Sandra is also a freelancer, who lectures about quilting, stitchery, writing and the business of writing. Her feature articles have appeared in McCall’s Quilting, Threads, Dallas Medical Journal and various national publications and newspapers. Her popular it-happened-to-me humor stitchery column Needle ‘n Pen, was a regular in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram and featured in The Quilter Magazine.
Sandra has studied writing and the publishing industry since 1983 and enjoys sharing her knowledge at both national and local workshops and conferences. Topics include the business of writing, contracts, research and various issues of fiction and nonfiction writing. She has recently rejoined Romance Writers of America and the local Yellow Rose RWA chapter. Her two manuscripts are an historical Oregon Trail romance and a humorous contemporary. In 1993, Sandra stepped back in time to travel with a wagon train on the Oregon Trail. This appreciation for early emigrant-quilters is translated into her historical slide lectures.
As an outgrowth of her writing, Sandra is also a professional photographer, generating her own images, in addition to camera ready line art to accompany her writings. She is also a proud volunteer first responder for the Trophy Club Fire and Police departments. (Photo of her in uniform)
Sandra, I’m fascinated by your varied career as an author! How did you first begin writing?
That’s a rather long story. After trying almost every handcraft/hobby, I discovered quilting in 1974. I went to an open class at a fabric store in Fresno, CA and discovered that I knew more than the instructor. After several answers from me, she asked me to teach the class. From a core of six people who raised their hands wanting to meet, we grew to a group of twelve that gathered weekly for twenty-five years. I also began teaching quilting (I am self-taught) and so do some things differently. By 1975, I was so involved with quilting that I asked two friends to join me and within three months we opened a quilt store, Quilters Paradise, which is still in operation all these years later.
During this time, my students kept asking me to write my class in book form. With a quilt store, teaching and five children, somehow there just wasn’t time to write. Something had to give–after much agonizing, the store went. Eighteen months later, Quilt-As-You-Go was born.
At the same time I was broadcasting a weekly, call-in radio show about quilting and stitchery on KMJ-AM and had as many men callers as women. Three years later, I was frustrated just talking about a visual art, so I organized a television show about all things to do with thread and needle. I employed a staff of twelve and a manager. We filmed with a studio audience. With national support, I was about to go national when I was misdiagnosed with ovarian cancer.
During treatment, I lost my business, but while laying in the hospital over nine months, I decided to write romance –my favorite reading genre. After I recovered, I joined an RWA chapter. Yellow Rose is my fourth chapter and I was founding president of one: The Monterey Bay Chapter.
Do you use a pen name?
That’s a definite no, I guess. LOL! Changing the subject, can you write amid noisy distractions?
Oh, yes. I ran my husband’s law office in the Santa Cruz, CA area for twelve years. I learned how to be writing a romance scene and have to answer a caller’s detailed law question. That’s focus! But it took some time to learn.
Do you need to do research for your quilting books? What about for your other books?
The quilt books are written by making specific quilts that I design and execute. The First Peoples: The Hmong of Southeast Asia,” was published internationally in both Singapore and in the US. It’s one of a twelve book children’s series about tribes of the world for libraries. I worked with the Hmong in Fresno, CA, moved to Trophy Club, TX, and joined a church that has a Northern Vietnam outreach. Days before we left, I found the job on the internet, bought six research books in Hanoi in a street book store, came home and wrote the book’s outline in four days with a raging Hanoi bug doing awful things to my body. But it was accepted.
For the 1845-1875 historical, I was lucky enough to live in the Portland, OR, area when the State celebrated the 150-year Oregon Trail anniversary. I researched, attended lectures and rode with the official wagon train for a week in historical dress, traveling around the skirt of Mt. Hood to Oregon City, the end of the Oregon Trail. I learned during that trip that it’s the little things that make your descriptions ring with truth.
Do you have your books professionally edited?
The three quilt books were edited by the publisher’s editor. However, they virtually went to press without editing–several phrases or words changed in each. The Hmong book was edited to fit into the series only. My newspaper column and magazine articles are virtually unedited. I intend to edit my historical.
I’ve developed a method of “V” editing that works for me and I’m able to write to a specific word count, if needed. This technique comes from typing my first two books on a typewriter. I was a lousy typist and would leave words–even whole phrases–out. Needing to fit the omissions in, I’d look to cut phrases and replace with one or two words. It was a painful learning, time consuming experience.
For my first quilt book, I taught myself camera ready line art, and photography. Now, I have to learn a high-end computer program for drawing quilts.
You’ve obviously acquired many important skills. No please describe what it’s like to be an author in three words.
Humbling, frustrating–simply wonderful! Those last two words count as one, really.
Yes they do! What advice would you give beginning writers?
Stick to it. I did–and you should read the first chapter of my first novel. It is summed up in two words–appallingly bad.
What’s your favorite quote?
It’s taped to my monitor. “Good writing is stringing words together well.” I don’t know who the author is, but if someone recognizes it, please let me know.
That’s a great quote! Which of your books was most favorably reviewed?
The first one: Quilt-As-You-Go. It received wonderful reviews, including, “Add this to your library,” by The Library Journal. The book was in print for ten years and considered a classic. It’s Second Edition was in print for five years.
Awesome! Can you tell us about your current project?
It’s a story of a young woman who leaves her foster family and goes East to be trained as a physician, returns home, then is rejected by most everyone because she’s a female doctor and, in desperation, doctors the prostit . . . well, you’ll just have to wait to read it.
I’ll end by sharing my third son’s remark when the boxes arrived with my first book:
“Gee, Mom! It looks like a real book.”
Oh my, aren’t kids just so funny! Now here’s a bit more about two of Sandra’s books. First,
This is a practical guide to quilting, packed with innovative ideas and useful tips to the craft. Contains many new patterns, all with detailed diagrams and step-by-step instructions, with instructions for making and using a frame so that you can create beautiful, hand-stitched, full-sized quilts. Offers advice on selecting fabrics, mixing prints and working out measurements. Features the author’s simple way to applique so that nobody need baste and press ever again, as well as instructions for a unique straight-seam method for bindings and borders.
Grade 4-6-Colorfully bordered spreads introduce each group, the habitat in which they live, the plants and animals native to the region, and early contacts with outsiders. Later spreads consider traditional and modern lifestyles: home construction, foods, clothing and fashion, languages, performing arts, crafts, recreation, myths and spirits, and rituals associated with birth and death. The attractive layouts feature photographs, usually in full color, as well as adequate maps. Text boxes with colorful backgrounds expand on the information.
Look for Sandra’s books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online retailers.