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I am taking today off from work. They owe me 16.4 vacation days, and it occurred to me that I was entitled to use one or two. So I am relaxing, and thinking what nice air-conditioned places I can go to in 93º weather. (The MFA, Pensey's Spices, and Trader Joe's are the current favorites).

But last night I went to see the Yarn Harlot (aka Stephanie Pearl-McPhee). She writes humorous knitting books, and is absolutely wonderful. She talked about what lack of respect knitters get, and mentioned several examples. I just wish that I could offer the same gestures and inflections she did, because the audience was cracking up.

She's a little bit of a thing, about 5 feet tall, and lives in Toronto, so she has a Canadian accent.

She will arrive at a bookstore for a signing, look at the ten chairs that are set up, and say, "there will be a lot of people coming. You need more chairs." Then the people at the bookstore will explain, patiently and kindly, sometimes patting her on the head, that NO ONE ever comes to book signings, and wouldn't it be better to have one or two people stand rather than a lot of empty chairs? So 75 people come to sit in the 10 chairs, and the staff goes crazy.

(Last night was at Borders Books. The manager at Borders Books ran a surveillance campaign that included going to another Yarn Harlot talk and taking pictures so she could prove to other people at the store that a LOT of people would be coming and they needed a LOT of chairs. Borders was totally organized).

Some of the stories she told were wonderful. There was the episode where she and her husband, Joe, were at a cocktail party (which is highly unusual behavior for them) and some guy started talking to them and asking what they did. Joe is fine. Joe works in the music recording industry, so that's intelligible. And what do you do? says the guy to Stephanie? "Oh, I'm a writer."

"Oh. Any luck?"

"Some." (She's trying to downplay this because she knows that as soon as she says she writes knitting books the guy is going to back away). Joe, however, does not pick up on the hint. "Some luck? Four books!"

"Four books. Published?"

"Oh, yes."

So he invites them to another cocktail party that he's giving, and she explains she can't make it because she needs to be in New York for the release of her next book.

So now the guy is impressed, and he starts pulling out business cards, and saying that this guy plans events and might be of some help, and so and so is a press writer who might be interested and this guy, well, this guy is at Toronto's snazziest bookstore, but they'd need to be sure of getting at least 200. Could she manage 200? (She got 700 in New York, 700 in Northampton, Massachusetts, and 300 last night in a suburb of Boston).

Joe interrupts again. "Steph gets hundreds!"

The guy is really astonished now. "What do you write about?"

Joe: "Knitting!"

And the guy pulls back the card from Toronto's snazziest bookstore, and it looks like he wants the other cards back as well, and then his wife shows up.

"Hi. I'm Linda Lastname."

"Hi. I'm Joe."

"Hi. I'm Stephanie Pearl-McPhee."

"Stephanie Pearl-McPhee?!!! The Yarn Harlot?!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And Linda looks at her husband, who has this horrified expression, and says, "you didn't say anything stupid about knitting, did you?"

No respect for knitters. Even from those who live with them.

And Stephanie also talked about Doctors without Borders, which is her favorite charity. When the tsunami hit in 2004 Stephanie asked the people who read her blog to send money to Doctors without Borders. She mentioned this to her brother, Ben, who does fund-raising for UNICEF. Ben sent her an email, warning her that fund-raising was a thankless task, and not to be terribly disappointed if she didn't raise much.

So, over a period of that amounted to about two years, people would donate to DWB, send an email to Stephanie, and Stephanie would add it to the running total. She finally got to about $120,000. So last December she set a goal, and asked the readers of her blog to donate again, in whatever amount. She asked us to pretend that we had a new family member, and needed to buy them a Christmas present, and to send the amount of that extra present to DWB. Her new goal was $240,000. She thought it would take a couple more years.

We blew by the $240,000 mark in 74 hours. With change.

Stephanie received another email from her brother Ben. This one said, "How did you do it? Explain this, because no one I know has managed this without a world disaster."

So she went off and started thinking about fund-raising. Fund-raising, as she explained last night, involves a lot of work. You have to assure people that their contribution matters, that even if they only give a small amount, that when all the small amounts are added together, that you will have something to show for it. That small acts, repeated over and over, can have an impact.

Then she asked us if we knew of any situation where a small act, repeated over and over, would have an impact, and we all waved our knitting at her.

So she called her brother, and said that she knew the answer, but it would take a lot of wool.

I had a wonderful time. Borders was stuffed to the gills, and the staff was happy, and the woman in the seat next to me recommended a book on baby knits so I could make something for my grand-niece-or-nephew-to-be. The woman in the seat on the other side is just learning, so I showed her what happened when you purl three together. (You get a little bobble).

Knitters are fun.

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