A digression on digressions …

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Uncategorised | 2 Comments

As far as I can tell, the only people reading this blog are other writers, which is okay, I’m reasonably fond of my own kind. But on the other hand, I’m not entirely sure how much writers care about reviews of the books of other writers. I have a pretty clear idea how they feel about reviews of their own books, which is a combination of dread, excitement and mental nausea, but the books of others …? Not so sure.

Recently I read an article about why procrastination is good for writers. Excellent article. Writers though, are slippery. Like eels they worm themselves into places and states they have no right to be and I immediately defined myself as somebody who needs more procrastination. And yet, given that I posted my first of 100 reviews on Jul 30, 2014 and claimed I was going to try not to take too long about it, and it’s now 10 October 2016 and I’ve done … thirty reviews, I think more procrastination is probably not what I need after all.

And yet …

In the past couple of weeks a writer whom I much admire, Beverley A Jackson, has finished the first draft of her latest novel, which I’m having the privilege of helping her workshop. I do not intend to spoil anything for anybody here, but one strand of her narrative includes geisha. Modern geisha.

Modern Geisha


As a result of reading one of her chapters I had to go and do some original research of my own before offering her suggestions. I wanted to find out about the behaviour of ‘apprentice geisha’ or maiko. I thought I knew the information I wanted to share but I really wasn’t sure. My view of geisha has been permanent and beautifully coloured by Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” and I am glad of it. Just as my first wizard was Cadellin, my first hero David Balfour and my first female role model Pippi Longstocking, I believe fiction has generally served me well in the creation of my inner world. But it’s not good to rely on memory when helping a friend edit a novel, so I found this video. That helped. But what I remembered from Golden was the amount of work that went into wearing, and caring for, geisha clothing, so I found this astonishing and extensive photo-tutorial on kimono etiquette. Then I took my digression … I remembered the beginning of Memoirs of a Geisha when the girls are taken from their home. What would they have been wearing before they were put into their ‘best’ clothes, I wondered. It turned out the answer wasn’t far away – right here in fact.Boro fabric

So … boro. What an interesting concept. What a complex creative form. Worth investigation surely? And I investigated it for quite a while. By now I’m a long way from Beverley’s novel chapter, and a considerable distance from Memoirs of a Geisha and definitely nowhere near my own deadlines for fiction or non-fiction, come to that. But whatever, it’s all going to be useful one day, isn’t it?

Well yes, although possibly not in the literary sense. The endpoint of my wild internet ramble through Japanese culture was the realisation that my broken laundry bag could be mended using boro techniques. Not boro itself, any more than Golden’s story is a history of modern Geisha, but an adaptation of boro to my own needs. The bag hangs behind a door in our tiny house and we love it because it folds flat, and holds a lot of washing to be put on the line. But three years of use has weakened the handles and while it’s been sewn up once, it clearly wouldn’t last long if repaired that way again. So boro – adding strength to the original material, but given a modern twist – seemed like an excellent idea.

That meant a trip into the loft to get my pack of appliqué materials down. They weren’t supposed to be used until a workshop I’m attending in March, but no matter. An hour spent hunting for my thimble. No problem. Another hour double-checking my understanding of Boro was absolutely essential to ensure I had mastered the key ideas. Absolutely necessary. Then to work.

Boro bag handle

By the end of the evening the first handle is at least in the process of being repaired. Only that one to finish and three more to begin and …

Boro bag handle

Oh yes, procrastination. How it helps writers.

I’m still not sure.


  1. Beverly A Jackson
    10th October 2016

    Hi Kay, you gave me a good giggle and a lot of wonderful information (I had not seen the kimono website before!) Your input on Japan and everything Japanese has been invaluable. I should maybe do a blog article about how I like to break rules and bend credibility! (it’s true, I do.) But when you get to the end of the novel, I think you’ll see and understand some of my mad goings on. The edit is a lot more fun than the 1st draft, I can tell you that!

    Thanks for helping, and I’m SO glad I was useful in ideas of repair for your laundry bag. haha!

    All best, Bev (with an LY at the end .:-)

    • Kay Sexton
      10th October 2016

      ****ing spell checker. Not only does it insist that boro is either bro or born, it clearly thinks Beverly is Beverley (yup, it just did it again) – anyhoo – glad I’m along for the ride with this novel, BeverLY (ha, fooled it that time!)


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