Monday, November 16, 2009

Guest Blogger: Heidi Rice Returns!

The Playground is tickled to welcome back our good friend Heidi Rice -- even if she does seem to have a pastime I don't quite understand the allure of...

Oh, well, she's always fun to have around!

Heidi Rice Outs Herself…

I have a secret passion, which I’m going to confess to here, even though it makes me seem very sad and extremely dull… I’m a jigsaw puzzle junkie.

There, I’ve said it, and I’ve probably lost a few billion cool points in the process — especially if you knew some of the puzzles I’ve got hooked into doing by my mum. Yup, she’s a fellow addict. In fact I blame her for my affliction as I believe it may be hereditary — all three of my sisters being afflicted with the same puzzle-junkie gene. Anyway, my mum plays a lot of golf, and she buys most of the puzzles — get the picture? Pretty damn scary, eh? Have you any idea how boring a puzzle of a golf course can be to look at for several hours at a time?

But you see I can’t stop myself. It’s a compulsion. I see all those squiggly shaped pieces lying before me and I just have to fit them together or die trying. And there’s a very specific process to be followed to do it.

First I’ll judge the colour and texture of each section of puzzle. Next I’ll group all the relevant pieces (of which there has to be at least a thousand – anything less is for wimps, folks). Then I’ll put together the easy bits (any part of the picture with writing on or people is usually a good place to start). My mum meanwhile always does all the edge bits (we do make a pretty good team actually, despite her golf issues). And then, as things start to hot up, there’s the long hours staring at individual sections, visualising in my mind what each missing piece would look like and then piddling about endlessly sticking the wrong bit in the wrong hole till you finally get one of the little bastards to fit. Of course there are some highs if you manage to pop a piece into place at a glance that your mum and/or your sisters have been agonizing over for hours. (NB I never puzzle alone, because that would make me a dotty old dear). And to finish off there’s always that huge expanse of sky (puzzle makers always stick it in there, because they’re sadists) which all looks exactly the same and drives you totally nuts.

Have I bored you into a coma yet? Excellent! So now that I’ve got you begging for mercy, I’m finally going to get to the point of this blog post. And what is the point?

Well, originally I had this fab analogy planned about how the desire to fix a puzzle is the same desire I have when I build a story. First I have to create my characters, then work out their conflict and their backstory – which is like that initial sorting exercise - and then when I start writing it all out it’s a matter of slotting everything into place. Figuring out where each emotional development, each turning point, each character revelation, each line of dialogue goes in your story. And not giving up when you get the wrong piece in the wrong hole and have to start over….And sometimes you may need some help with that from your editor or your critique partner … And …

But actually, after I thought about it, I realised that analogy was pretty lame. So this is actually just a blog post about Heidi’s sad obsession with sticking little bits of squiggly shaped cardboard together! Sorry.

So do any of you guys have sad obsessive hobbies that you want to share? I’ve outed myself, now you can too.

And to give you an added incentive to ‘fess up (and so I don’t look like the only dotty old dear here), I’ll pick a comment at random to receive a free copy of my latest book, Public Affair, Secretly Expecting, which is the second in the Brody Brothers duo (and not due out in the States until next March). It features bad boy Irish movie star Mac Brody, shy London dress shop manager Juno Delamare…. And not a puzzle in sight. Honest.

Visit Heidi at


Jane said...

I love jigsaw puzzles, too. I have yet to try my hand at the 5000 piece puzzles. I only buy the 500 and 1000 piece jigsaws. I even buy a bunch of the special glue so that I can keep them intact.

Angel said...

Oh, my. That just sounds agonizing. :) My husband's grandmother does puzzles and I just look at the pieces and think, "Somebody save me!" But she loves it.

And I actually think your analogy was quite good. We are trying to piece things together, and I can't wait for that moment when it clicks!

My own hobby (besides my writing obsession) is scrapbooking. It is the only creative endeavor I've hung onto. Right now, my scrapbooking table is a mess and I can't find anything, but it is always there if I need a little time away from writing.

Thanks for joining us on the playground again Heidi!!!


Merri said...

As a child, Christmas wasn't Christmas unless we got a jigsaw. My mum/Santa bought us new ones every year. We had a cupboard full. On rainy days they were her secret weapon, and I'm not ashamed to say I used the same tactic on my own children on wet afternoons.

The noise level drops dramatically once they become absorbed. Though I have to say I never made them suffer 'goal puzzles' they'd have rebelled, lol

And I could see where you were going with your wasn't so lame :)

Characters are like puzzles...puzzles without a clear printed surface. And as the writer, it's up to you to figure out they're true picture/face and where they fit in your story. And getting it right is like finding or placing that last single piece to make something perfectly lovely...something you've worked hard at, being totally focused on and something you're proud of when you finish.

And I think that describes the writing process.

Thank you for sharing your guilty little passion. For me it would have to be crafts. You name it I've tried it...knitting, cross-stitch, papercraft, card making, salt dough, jewellery, friendship bracelets and ceramic to name a few. I just love making pretty things :)

Smarty Pants said...

I like puzzles. I hardly ever do them anymore, but I do like them. I had a friend who liked to buy the really miserable ones - 5000 piece puzzles with all white dice except for one red one in the middle or a bunch of nails with one bolt. You'll go bald trying to do those. I prefer them to be a little easier. I always have to start with the edges.

Other hobbies... I scrapbook, bake and decorate cakes, cater, draw, paint, plan parties, design websites... and before you ask, I don't clean my house, so that frees up time :)

Instigator said...

I love puzzles! I only seem to do them at the holidays though. I'm like you, can't do one by myself. I have to have my mother, sister and when we were younger aunts and cousins to help. This is probably why I only seem to do them at the holidays now...when we're all spending hours of time at my parent's house instead of just popping in and out because we're on to the next thing on the to do list. Kinda makes me nostalgic. I might have to run by walmart and see what their puzzle selection looks like.


Playground Monitor said...

I see the analogy perfectly!

I haven't done a puzzle in years, but we always did the edges first and then attacked the rest. I love it when you've agonized over a section for ages and have walked away to give yourself a break. You've gone to the loo, then are headed to the kitchen for a drink and spot the piece you've tried to locate for the last hour as you walk past the table and just glance at it. That gives you the mental pick-me-up to go back at it.

Welcome back to the Playground!

Liza said...

I was a big puzzle addict when I was younger, but don't take the time to do them anymore. I usually spend my free time reading. I love books and wish I had a few more hours a day to read. I have so many books in my TBR pile that it turned into a TBR bookshelf. Still I buy more never know what you will be in the mood to read.

I do enjoy baking for my family and friends. Will start making rum cakes and cookies next weekend.

Heidi said...

See, this is fabulous. And it's why I always come back to the Writing Playground. Lots of secret puzzle junkies out there. I love it.

Jane, like the glue idea, and it's never occurred to me, cos it's always a bit sad when after all that work you have to smash it all up and put it back in the box.

Angel, scrapbooking sounds fascinating. My oldest son does that and has scrap books full of mementoes from all his Disney trips but it does make a lot of mess... Which surprisingly enough he never cleans up!

Merri, we do our puzzles at Christmas too. When all the family's together. It makes a nice break from stuffing our faces, but having said that we have found ways to do both at the same time. so glad you got my analogy. And very impressed with your list of other guilty passions.

Smarty Pants! OMG save me from those S&M puzzles with lots of white dice. I don't do those ones, I like a nice picture. There's a great shop near the British Museum in London which has a basement full of brilliant puzzles including ones with Jimmy Dean and Marilyn and Elvis on. I love those, always try and slip a few of those in between the golf ones.

Instigator, go on, get thee to Walmart and buy a puzzle for Christmas.

Playground Monitor, thanks for the welcome back. And cool, you got my analogy too. Have to admit my current book is turning into a bit of a marathon puzzle where none of the pieces quite fit together. And funnily enough, the idea of walking away and coming back to it later is very appealing...

Liza, see I have to say baking is a bit more productive than puzzle making really. That would be a much better hobby. Although maybe not for my waistline. Good luck with your TBR pile!

Maureen said...

I have tried to do those large puzzles before with my kids when they were younger but we just didn't have the patience. Right now my obsession is with baking and cooking so I am always trying new recipes and my family gives me a thumbs up for the good ones.

gigi said...

Hi Heidi,
I have a closet full of jigsaw puzzles. Kid size to the 1000 or more pieces. I used to love doing them.I guess I gave up after having a few puzzles lose a few pieces right at the finish line.
I had a Gone With the Wind Movie poster puzzle that was missing one piece a few years back. After working for a while on all the orange and red in the background from Atlanta burning just to have a couple of empty holes left took the wind out of my puzzle doing.

I guess working in my yards is my obsession now.

Problem Child said...

Puzzles are my idea of hell. *That* will be my eternal punishment -- assembling jigsaw puzzles. I just don't have the patience for it. (I know, you are all reeling in shock from the idea I lack patience.)

It was all I could do to get through those wooden puzzles AC had as a baby...

I've realized recently that I don't have a hobby -- I don't do any kind of crafty stuff, I don't collect anything. I read. I write. I wrangle gerbils back into their cage.

Heidi -- do you do those 3-D puzzles? The ones that make replicas of Big Ben or the White House. Those look tough. Or those mosaic ones, where the pieces are tiny pictures that come together to make a larger picture?

Sherry Werth said...

Hello Heidi and Welcome!
We are ex-puzzle junkies at our house now, but mostly due to the kids having grown up. But a few years back, it wasn't unusual to have a puzzle spread out on the kitchen table at all times. (Guess that's how the habit of eating in the family room came about LOL)
I have a beautiful framed puzzle of a Victorian era playroom that hung in my daughter's room when she was younger.
I've always wanted to get a Santa puzzle to frame and hang during the holidays. Maybe this year I'll find one!

Minna said...

I haven't done any jigsaw puzzles for a long time, if don't take the ones found in the internet into account.

Well, I knit stuff for Barbie dolls when I'm not knitting or crocheting stuff for myself. And I always trade that Barbie stuff for something else. Like for more yarn!

catslady said...

I so use to love jigsaw puzzles - the harder the better. I remember my husband once mixed 3 puzzles together and hid the covers so I had no idea what they were but I did finally complete them. Unfortunately it was before I had cats. The little devils kept stealing my pieces or chewing them or laying on the puzzle or even attacking it. I had to finally give them up - they won!

Kathy said...

My hubby loves to do puzzles and we'll always have one on the table during the holidays. He likes taking his time, but the kids come along and zip through the darn thing completing it before he ever gets to spend quality time silently putting it together. That frustrates him. The family likes to put together folk art scenes, preferrably winter ones.

I've done just about every craft. Nowadays I've got an addiction of tearing out images from magazines for later inspiration on story boards. Magazines are a blessing and my curse.

Heidi said...

Hi Maureen, Definitely like the sound of a baking obsession. Wish mine was that useful..

OMG Gigi, I think we had that exact same GWTW puzzle. Problem is once you'd done Rhett and Scarlett there was an awful lot of flaming Atlanta to contend with as I recall... Loosing a piece would be heart-breaking.

Ha, somehow I had a feeling puzzles wouldn't be your thing PC! But no hobbies at all?? That's harsh. Couldn't you knit the gerbils a coat or something?

Like the sound of that Victorian playroom, Sherry. There's a great Santa puzzle based on an old Coca-Cola ad (which is apparently where he got his red and white duds from) which we did once. Very Christmassy, gets you right in the mood.

And Minna, knitting Barbie stuff is brilliant. There's a woman at the local Women's Institute market near where my mum lives in Wiltshire who does the same thing and sells them for a fortune! Nothing like making your hobbie pay. Sadly I don't think there's much of a market in doing jigsaw puzzles for people.

Heidi said...

Ahh Catslady, see I knew there was a reason I don't like cats! But I have to say I'm impressed you finished those three puzzles - and didn't throttle your husband!

Oh Kathy, your poor hubby, that would drive me nuts too. We all do the puzzles together, but it does get right on my tits when you've been working on a section for ages and then someone comes along and starts zipping through it!

Minna said...

Well, here in Finland lives someone who makes ear rings and necklaces out of the pieces of jigsaw puzzles and out of Finnish stamps, too. I got once 2 stamp necklaces from her when I sent her a bunch of stamps. I might do it again, soon.

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

You are so going to want to win this book! I have the UK release which I'm reading now and Mac, is to die for......he's sexy, Irish, arrogant and cheeky.

Anonymous said...

I have discovered, after many unfinshished jigsaw puzzles, that I do not have the talent (ie: patience) for the craft. kudos to all who do!

karen k