Author Fair, Take Deux

I sat next to Marian in the Children’s book section, a probably 60-somehint African American woman with a shock of  gray hair that exploded like a plasma ball from underneath her hat when she removed it. By the end of the four hours I knew more about her life and hobbies than anyone else at the fair. Marian did most of the talking, though I was anything but silent. She had travelled the world, we exchanges stories about Japan and how everyone sought her autograph there back in the 70s.

She was apparently a fixture in this particular library, as everyone seemed to know her, so it was only right that I was the next to be drawn into her world today. She made a comment about samurai and “did I have a man-bun?” I turned to show her my pony tail and she laughed. At one point she alsmot accused me of being metro and we both laughed about that.

I ended up buying one book, Sideshow, a romance story about an aspiring opera singer. I admit that I was first drawn in by the cover, a beautiful ethereal photograph. The subject matter, while not something I suppose I would normally seek out, somehow resonated with me.

My friend Brian was there with his Novel, Chip Dip. There was Claudia with two books of Popcorn recipes. A man who had training and showing exotic animals for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Another author who was at the last fair in Plymouth with a table full of wire- and perfect bound books.

Several people came up to the booth and only one seemed to have no other motivation than to get a raffle ticket out of me. “I’m trying to win something for my cousin,” he said. At least he was up front about it.

The traffic wasn’t terribly heavy, but several people did stop by and leaf through the book while I rattled off an ad hoc ramble about the subject matter of the book. I couldn’t seem to get it straight in my head each time. By the end I was jokingly saying, “it’s a book about a little elephant… who goes on adventures”. True, but not really selling it well.

It didn’t matter. The rainbow of origami elephants drew them in, and several put on the headphones and listened to the audiobook for more than a minute. One woman gushed over the prints and the artwork but only signed up for the mailing list.

One librarian approached me and mentioned something about reading at schools. I acted enthusiastic, but the idea sort of terrified me, because at the moment I can’t imagine reading Zōsan to a classroom of kids. It’s a bit long for that sort of thing, though I could  limit it to the first chapter, which is the best cliffhanger-intro sort of piece anyway.

I did a couple of rounds and like the last time, it was awkward to strike up conversations with most of the people, but at least with a couple of them, we sort of hit it off and talked about both of our journeys to this point. The convoluted path to publishing, the abhorrent cost of digital four-color printing and how in the hell does anyone find time to market themselves?

Not so with Marian. I admit I first felt a captive audience, while I was setting up she would pepper me with questions every half minute or so. She is one of those people you don’t mind talking to because all her inquiries are in such earnest, and you can tell how genuine she is. She’d been to several different countries in her lifetime, she said, but still somehow hadn’t made it to D.C. We laughed at the irony.

That is one of the best parts of these fairs. I gave away more origami elephants than anything, but I did sell two more books to complete strangers. But when it comes down to it, what’s really great is when you find another person that you can connect with on any level.

I had daydreams of the books flying out of my boxes, as I’m sure many attendees do, and when it came time to clean up at 4pm the stark reality that I had only sold one book weighed in. But that is one more book than I had before, and even though it didn’t always translate into a sell, there seemed to be bonafide interest in it. And at least I had Marian to make the whole thing fun.

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It looks as though one secret to getting published is simply finding the right publisher. There are many and their submission guidelines can be fairly specific. 
Sadly I won’t be able to make wallpaper from rejection letters because everything is handled digitally, and most publishers say since they see hundreds or even thousands  of submission every week, they take the “opt-in” approach of only writing those they  intend to publish. Which is understandable. 
Nonetheless the search begins. I’ve already found a small handful that seem like they might have interest and submitted one. Every journey with a single step, and all that. 

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I had forgotten the evolution one of the climactic scenes had taken before I arrived at the final version. Many of the early sketches focused on the sunflower close up, but it wasn’t until later that I used perspective to create more drama and further emphasize the idea that it was plucked from above. Also in the final, Zochi is squinting more convincingly.

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Evolution of “Sunflower”

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The Evil of the Adverb?

Using the Hemingway Editor, I was puzzled by the raging attack on the adverb.

YOU HAVE X ADVERBS! it screams at me. AIM FOR 1 or fewer!

That prompted a little google search. Was it really that dire? And I found:

Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer
— Mark Twain

… the beastly adverb – far more damaging to a writer than an adjective.
—Graham Greene

Among other writings on the subject. I found both negative and positive rants about the subject.

But I took the message to heart and combed through my paragraphs. I noticed there were quite a few sprinkled throughout. A number of them were redundant. while I’m not convinced adverb deserve the outright indignation they appear to have attracted, there was often a  more engaging alternative.

So I agree that the adverb is a bit “lazy”. In a draft, it gets the idea across, no problem. But, I found it worthwhile considering there might be a more descriptive &a colorful word choice. It was enthralling to uncover a number instances where pale gray sentences burst into rainbows with just the drop of one little “ly”.

Still, all is not lost for the lonely adverb. They may be plain, but they are functional and can convey meaning quite clearly. The trick is not to become too complacent and overuse them, because you’re missing out on the joy of what a more delicious word could bring your table of words. I’ll enjoy hacking and slashing my way through my manuscript int he coming weeks!


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Perfectly not perfect.

I spent the afternoon amidst mechanical machines, smalls of solvents and ink, and a handful of happy people. It was cloudy outside and the breeze blew but barely could make it through even the two open doors so things got rather sweaty inside.

I see the same full time staff at Signal Return: Lee, Lynne, Joel, and one other that unfortunately her name escapes me because she’s usually on the other side of the room behind the counter. I’m sure I’ll get it in my head eventually as it’s clear that I’m going to be spending some time there.

I’m fussing with the words of a new book, and after working on it for all this time, the images started to become a bit clearer in my head through reading and sketching. Somewhere down the line I decided that color was necessary; not just because Zōsan lacked it, but because it might really add something to the images of this particular book. Plus, the process seemed like it was fun and had lots of possibilities.

I scratched the surface of those possibilities through a three color print on a Vandercook 4 proof press. I spent the week caving linoleum blocks with a transfer print after working on color studies using Procreate on an iPad. That really helped me figure out what I wanted to do, and once I locked that in the carving process was a straightforward process of translating to the carving blocks.

Printing like this is still quite stressful for me. There’s a lot that can go wrong, and I lot I don’t know. But that’s part of the appeal here: the learning by doing, the mistakes, the intuitive nature of it, the embracing of imperfection and the industry of every crank and pull of gooey ink.

We took a lot of time locking up the black plate first to print registration prints. I made seven but I now see there’s merit in printing more just in case. We used those to ensure that both the green and blue colors would line up properly. I had flashback to reading those wonderfully bad and terribly registered Bazooka Joe comics (and wearing out my jaw chewing that gum!)  as we worked through correcting each. Lee definitely helped me do the lock ups and when I do this myself there’s going to be a lot more errors involved. I don’t think in picas much.

The magic happens like exhaling once you’ve held your breath through all the thinking and registration and setup. You crank away and admire each print with both a critical and enamored eye, tweaking this and that with each one. Each switch felt like a leap of faith to some degree. Was it going to work? Will it be perfect? The answer was almost always a “sorta-mostly”, and that was an important acceptance to go through.

No two were exactly the same; some were printed “too light” and others much more punchy, but as you go on you feel the judgements floating away and you begin to see the loveliness in each and every print, not just ignoring the differences but embracing them. And this happened even before the Corona was handed to me.

TLDR: the new book will most definitely have color in it. Probably a small handful of two- or three-color prints — because they are wonderful.

I ended up with 14 prints. If you want one, I’ll be picking them up next week. Let me know!

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