Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society by Beth Pattillo and Giveaway

Sweetgum Knit Lit Society
WaterBrook Press
ISBN: 1-4000-7394-4
$13.99; 352 pages
Beth Pattillo (Heavens to Betsy and Earth to Betsy) knows how to follow a dream—even with a pile of publishing industry rejection slips to her name. She spent seven years on the path to her first publishing contract, and the characters in her new novel, The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, embrace Pattillo’s persistence.

Eugenie, Ruth, Esther, Merry, and Camille are not perfect women. They each struggle with love in their own way—unrequited love, forbidden love, overwhelming love, even lost love. Yet they battle on, meeting every month in the Pairs and Spares Sunday school room to knit, discuss that month’s book selection, and puzzle out their lives.

When Eugenie throws neglected and abused teenager Hannah Simmons into their midst, however, walls decades in the making come crashing down. With secrets thrown on the table amid the tangle of yarn, needles and books, one thing becomes certain: The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society will soon discover what’s most important in the complicated lives they lead.

~~~Beth Pattillo Is Available For Interview~~~

About Beth Pattillo

Beth Pattillo is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and holds a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University. She and her family make their home in Tennessee. Her novel, Heavens to Betsy, won the prestigious RITA award from the Romance Writers of America. TheSweetgum Knit Lit Society is her fourth novel. To learn more, visit

Q&A with Beth Pattillo, author of The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society

Q. What was your inspiration behind The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society?

The book was inspired by the knitting group at my church. I loved the way a group of diverse women, from their teens to retirement age, bonded over knitting and prayer. I think book clubs experience a similar phenomenon. Something about knitting or reading together really helps to create authentic community. One of the things I enjoyed most about writing this book was looking at the world from such different points of view. Each of the women in the novel is unique. And the variety of ages and life experiences kept things interesting.

Q. In the book, troubled teen Hannah Simmons has seen her share of neglect and abuse before meeting the ladies of the Knit Lit Society. Do you see many teens like Hannah in the course of your work as an ordained minister? If so, what is your philosophy in helping them find healing?

Unfortunately, I’ve met a number of teens over the years that were neglected by their parents. I’m a strong believer in youth ministry because I know it can provide guidance and care that’s often missing in a teenager’s home. In the novel, Hannah happens to be poor, but I’ve found that income level, however high or low, doesn’t always correlate to the quality of parenting. The love and attention of a youth minister and/or youth sponsor can often keep a teen from making bad choices with disastrous consequences. Teenagers need to feel competent and valued. A strong youth ministry provides an opportunity for young people to find their spiritual gifts and use them. It also makes God’s love tangible and powerful.

Q. Since not every town has a Knit Lit Society, what would your advice be to anyone who has a "Hannah" in their life or knows of a teen in a similar situation?

Most teens need someone to listen to them without judgment or agenda. Mentoring, serving as a youth sponsor, teaching Sunday school and Bible study – these are all great ways to reach out to teenagers. As a minister, in a particular situation, I have to assess whether a teenager needs the help of social services in addition to the love and care of a church family. All ministers are required by law to report suspected abuse. Neglect, though, can be a bit trickier. Ideally, a minister can reach out to the parents as well as the teen to try and help the family become more functional and caring. I always appreciated my church members letting me know if they thought a particular teenager needed help. I think it’s better to get involved and ultimately find that the situation wasn’t as serious as you thought than to ignore something until a crisis occurs.

Q. Do you knit in your spare time?

I love to knit! I’m into hand-tied yarn right now, taking eight or nine different yarns in a particular color palette and tying 2-3 yard sections end to end. The result is wonderfully shaggy scarves or shawls that have real depth of color and texture. (I was inspired by the owner of The Shaggy Sheep in my hometown of Lubbock, Texas – a terrific yarn store!) I’m afraid I have numerous unfinished projects around the house, but one day, I hope to finish them all.

Q. You spent seven years waiting to publish your first book and now The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society is your fourth book. What advice do you have for novice or aspiring writers?

Aspiring writers have to persevere. For that matter, so do published authors. The publishing industry is a rejection-based business. Work hard, acquire a thick skin, be open to good criticism, and revise, revise, revise. As writers, we take our work personally, but the publishing industry doesn’t. Rejection is a business decision, not a critique of our value as human beings!

My other piece of advice is to write every day, even if it’s only a small amount. I run an email loop called Club 100 For Writers. The challenge is to write 100 words a day for 100 days. I’ve seen this practice transform people’s lives. Instructions for joining the group are on my website,
I really enjoyed reading this book. When I first started reading it, I could picture our local librarian as Eugenie. Our librarian is much more relaxed with those in her library though. Thank goodness since my family enjoys visiting and we aren't the quietest bunch.
I could absolutely relate to wanting to help Hannah, what some would deem "trailer trash". Those are the kids I love because I want them to know how precious they are. So, I wanted the Knit Lit Society to really rally around her. They had the same response to her as many adults do to these kinds of kids. Beth really understood how Hannah was being viewed by each of the Society members.
Speaking of Society members, there are a lot of storylines going on and Beth handles them fluidly. First there's Eugenie, who basically runs the group. She's the librarian that likes order in everything, including her life. Of course, what would a great book be without undoing the put together one? Then there are the sisters; Esther and Ruthie. These two take sibling rivalry to a whole new level. Well, at least Esther does. Beth made it very easy to dislike Esther! And next is Merry, mom of 3 and wife to Jeff. I could absolutely relate to her; the hecticness of her life and the disdain she recieves from her daughter. Camille is the young one of the group. Taking care of her ailing mom has kept her from leaving Sweetgum. She dreams of shopping in Paris, but is relegated to running her mom's small clothing shop.
When Eugenie brings Hannah into their knitting and reading group, she turns the group upside down. They're all prepared for the reading that was already planned for the next 6 months. She instead changes all their reading to Classic novels such as Little Women and Pollyanna. Beth did a wonderful job picking books that would reveal a struggle each of her characters was going through. Seems like a daunting task if you ask me.
Each of these characters works through something in this book, although when it comes to Esther I'm pretty sure she hasn't learned anything. Man I wanted to reach through the pages of my book and wring her neck! I wish there were a 2nd book so she would get her come uppance! It would be great to see Hannah's life turned around, Camille make it in the big city, and Ruthie find love in this late period of her life.
My one issue with the book was Eugenie and Paul. *SPOILER ALERT* Because he's a pastor of the church, I find it hard to be okay with them having a relationship. The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked. The only time Eugenie steps into a church is to have her book club. As we dive more into her past, it seems she wants nothing to do with the church. So, decades have gone by and she has no desire for God, or so it seems to me. You would think Paul, having been a pastor for his entire adult life, would know that this relationship would be a poor example to his congregation. I know, I'm being critical on this point when I truly enjoyed the entire book. Pastors are to be an example and to lead their flock. That was the stickler for me.
So, aside from that one issue, this was a really well written book. It was very emotional and tugged at my heart stings on so many levels. It's a book that will make you think of how you've lived your life and how you still want to live it.
If you would like to enter to win this book, let me know if you've ever tried your hand at knitting. I have a feeling I'd have 2 left hands! I'd love to learn how to quilt! I have no idea where I'd fit it into my life, but it'd be fun. Please leave me a way to contact you if you win. Only US residents only, sorry, and thank you.

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Lindsey said...

I haven't tried to knit - it intimidates me, lol. I do love to crochet, though! My last project was a granny square blanket, it was one giant granny square. :-) Thanks for the giveaway, I would love to read this!

ladyufshalott at

Anonymous said...

I learned how to knit when I was a young girl but it is like I have two left hands. Actually, I am a leftie and back when I learned how to knit, mostly everyone was right-handed and had trouble showing lefties how to knit. I have been thinking about taking classes for it now.


Anonymous said...

my girls adn I knit with the hoops they sell at Hobby Lobby. we have made many hats and scarfs for people and dolls! it really is fun :)

Pamela J said...

The first time I tried knitting, I ended up with the yarn between the two needles being a distance of the whole length of my house! I did take it out after just two rows thinking I must be doing SOMETHING wrong. Since then I have knitted afghans of various sizes with different sizes of needles and a size 2 baby sweater under the direction of a dear friend... AND the sweater fit!! Thanks for entering me for your drawing.
Pam Williams
cepjwms at yahoo dot com

Martha A. said...

I tried to learn....I got all tangled up and the people who were very patient with me, gave up trying to teach me! Crocheting was easier for me, so I stick to that!
I would love to win this interesting book!


Stormi said...

I can't knit or anything cool like that, I have crosstiched This book sounds interesting.


ladystorm282001 at

Stormi said...

I can't knit or anything cool like that, I have crosstiched This book sounds interesting.


ladystorm282001 at

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Woven by Words by Mimi B is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.