After months in the works, I had the opportunity two weeks ago to fly to Indiana and film an online class for Annie's. Most of you crafters will know Annie's for their catalog and craft supplies. They also have an impressive and growing line of classes. Instructors that have worked for them include Lily Chin, Ellen Gormley, Patty Lyons, and Rohn Strong, to name just a few. Anyway, late last summer I was approached by Susan Sullivan. Susan is now president of the Crochet Guild of America, and she works as a producer for Annie's. She and I met several years ago when she was with Leisure Arts; thanks to her, LA has published several of my crochet titles. Susan wanted to know if I was interested in submitting a proposal for an Annie's class that would be available online and via DVD. (You have probably guessed by now that I can't yet reveal the name of the class--sorry!--as soon as I get the okay I'll share the content with you.)
There was a lot of back-and-forth before the idea became a reality. With my books for Leisure Arts and for Stackpole Books, things were fairly casual. I submitted an idea, suggested the number of projects that I would include, and the contract would be signed. Annie's wanted much more up front. Sketches for each project, and the exact yarn I planned to use. Information about the specifics of what each project would teach. An agreement that if I have ideas for future classes, they have the right of first refusal. Things like that. I appreciated their focus on getting these details nailed down up front, but it was a bigger time investment before I crocheted a stitch than I was used to.
The good news is that the proposal was satisfactory in both directions. On February 24th I flew to Fort Wayne, Indiana for my Annie's adventure. It was dicey whether Susan and I would both arrive as scheduled, since the forecast was for snow and the winds were brutal. I got to Fort Wayne first and have to say it is one of the most humane airports I have ever visited. Just the right size! Eight gates, so a plane comes in or goes out about every 15 minutes. When you leave the secure area of arrivals, a woman hands you a cookie! There is a welcome center with information about local attractions, a museum with aviation memorabilia, and plenty of seating.
Susan was able to change her connection and she arrived a few hours later. We drove the 40 minutes to Berne, IN, site of Annie's headquarters and the studio where we would be filming the class. When the wind dies down, Berne would be a great place to ride a bike--flat as a pancake! The elevation change from the end of my driveway here in Pennsylvania to the top of my street is greater than anything I experienced over a 4-day period in Indiana. Except for the terrain it reminded me of Lancaster--many Amish and Mennonite people. We saw buggies everywhere, at all times of the day and night.
Wednesday evening we went to the studio to get a look at it and make sure the step-outs I had sent earlier were ready for us. I was touched that a personalized gift bag was waiting for me!
It was full of crackers, chocolates, lip balm, moisturizer, a coloring book and colored pencils, a pack of tissues, all sorts of cool goodies with beautiful tissue paper. Just a really nice gesture on the part of Annie's personnel to help make me feel welcome.
The studio itself was basically one room but it sure is crammed full of equipment!
Lights, cameras, monitors, booms, etc., plus tables and the set. Once we found all of the supplies I'd need for the next morning, it was back to my room for a good night's sleep. I did take some time to browse through the brochures. It's not every town that can boast the world's largest cider press! I'll have to come back in the summer to explore.
Thursday we got an early start, arriving at the studio before 7:30. Alas, the makeup artist who had been scheduled to work on me couldn't make it because of the weather, so I was left to my own unskilled devices. Fortunately, there was a large kit of professional makeup available to me, so I did my best. Whenever I know I'm going to be photographed I try to use more makeup than usual, and invariably when the pictures come out it doesn't look like nearly enough. I slathered on what I thought was an appropriate amount, and everyone said it looked okay. I hope they're right.
Two people swarmed the set and quickly changed it from sewing to crocheting. That left me, Susan, Laura (Annie's Program Development Director), Dave the film editor, and two camera operators/directors/people (Scott and Melissa) who did just about everything. Lots of us in one room. I was miked, got to practice using the TelePrompTer, and then we were off and running. Interestingly, the introduction isn't the first thing filmed. It's a good idea, because that way any nervousness is out of your system by the time you go through that.
It was an intense two days, but everything went great! We finished at 5 p.m. on Day 1 and by 2 p.m. on Day 2. During that time we got everything done: the main class; a mini class based on one of the projects; some YouTube promo pieces that were added at the last minute; a tutorial for one of the projects that was also an add-on; and some promo shots. Everyone in the room was professional, encouraging, had great suggestions, and made my first experience doing an online class go more smoothly than I could have imagined.
I also had the wonderful opportunity to have lunch with Carol Alexander and Jackie Daugherty. I joked to Carol that before I met her I thought she was like Betty Crocker, a made-up name for a person who didn't really exist! She has done so much for the world of crochet over the years that it seemed impossible that she was a real person. So many designs, so many informational pieces in magazines...and it turns out that not only is she real, but she is a terrific lady. Warm wishes to Carol on her upcoming retirement. I hope she continues to design. And Managing Editor Jackie Daugherty is also a force in the knit and crochet community. Check out her Ravelry page and you'll see what I mean. It was fun to sit and chat over a nice hot bowl of soup with Carol and Jackie. That evening Susan, Laura, and I had a delicious dinner in Decatur, IN, and had a chance to get to know each other a little better. I'm fortunate to be working with such good people.
The next day after filming was complete Susan took me to meet Elyse, my contact at Annie's. So nice to put the face with the name at last. Elyse gave us a tour of the Annie's facility. Wow, do they have a lot going on there! I am in awe of how they keep track of the many books, magazines, clubs, photo backdrops, and so on that they have on site. Very impressive.
My flight back to Philadelphia had only 11 passengers on it, so I had plenty of room to spread out. That's the way to travel!
The class is due to be edited in the next 4-6 weeks, and should be on sale sometime in May. As soon as I get permission, I'll let you know what the title is and where to find it. I enjoyed the experience even though it was a lot of work, especially the preparation. Now it remains to be seen whether the class sells well enough to make it worth my while to consider doing another one. I'd like to return to Berne when the weather isn't so brutal and I have more time to explore the area. If you have any ideas for classes you'd like to take, please let me know and I'll pass those ideas along.