Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: March 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Question of Illustrations - Publishing a Book Series

When it came to the poetry trilogy, each book had an illustrator. One was a friend and two I found while searching for someone to hire. I loved working with such talented artists and they added so much to the books but since this book stands on its own, I called everything into question including the illustrations. As I saw it, there were a few ways I could go with benefits and drawbacks to each option:
  •  Hire an illustrator and have them draw pictures to go with my words. (What I did for the first three.) The benefit to this is the artistry that such illustrations add. The drawback is the cost and the additional time and effort communicating back and forth with an illustrator entails.
  • Use my own photography throughout the book. The benefit is I get to share one of my favorite hobbies along with my writing. Using my own work is also free and I have full rights to it. The drawback is trying to match photographs with poems. Having an illustrator draw whatever was needed was easier.
  • Use the photography of one of my friends. I have several friends who are brilliant artists with a camera and I’m sure I could negotiate the cost and rights to use their pictures. This would involve someone else in the project, though, and would take quite a bit of time.
  • Use my own drawings. This is the riskiest option as I’ve only taken a community drawing class and am planning to repeat it. While I love drawing, I’m nowhere near the level of a professional artist though the drawings could be fun to create and share. I also would have full rights to them at no cost.
  • Let the words stand by themselves with no illustrations. Most poetry books use this option. It’s free, no hassle, and the words speak for themselves. However, it can lack that visual artistic touch.
In addition to the benefits and drawbacks of the various options, there are also other factors to take into account. I’ve been thinking of using cream colored paper for this book. If I do, that might not work for photographic light and colors. I also have a drawing from the class I took which I would love to use in the next book because it illustrates one of the poems.

With these considerations in mind, I talked it over with a friend I was visiting and she suggested I let the words stand on their own with no illustrations. She liked it when readers could take the words anywhere with no limitations whatsoever. However, being another budding artist herself, she also suggested I draw images just for the beginning of the sections. If I stuck with pencil as my medium, it would keep that softer look I’m going for. I really like this idea. It only involves five drawings if I keep to five sections, one of which is done, and it lets me share a newfound love.

If this choice goes well, drawing the five pictures myself will be a huge joke on me. When I started taking my drawing classes, people asked if I was going to start illustrating my own books and I insisted I was not. The class was just for fun. Just for me. Apparently there were other plans afoot. Even before making this decision, I was planning on retaking the class because I loved it so much. It’s one of the things I’m most looking forward to right now. I’m hoping my teacher (same one as I had before) will be willing to help me with the drawings and give me tips on improving them. I think it will be a fun process. It also speaks to the question I had last year: “How can I illustrate spiritual truths in a drawing?” Drawing the next four for this book will be my answer.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Bringing it Together - Publishing a Book Series

I’d been looking forward to the project all afternoon. Once my work was finished for the day, I closed my laptop and pulled out my manuscript. Splayed out on the living room floor, I was delighted to finally have the time and mental space to take all the poems and put them in order. In short, I wanted to see what this book looked like as a whole.

Up to this point, the book has been a collection of individual poems. Though I knew the point I wanted to drive home in the end, I had little sense of the story arc as a whole. I didn’t know the beginning or the middle or how one section would progress into another. The poems were not written with any kind of order in mind and it would have to be created based upon what I’d already written. The experience of putting a poetry book together is rather like being handed a box of colored tiles and being told to make a coherent picture. I can still add and subtract away from the book to strengthen the flow, but with 106 poems ready to go in, it was time to put them all in the hopper and see what came out.

Taking what I learned from my first editor when it comes to putting a book together, I took a sheet of paper and drew out a story curve with notes describing what parts of the story I was looking for along the way. I then split the diagram into five sections: the beginning, going up the curve, the middle, going down the curve, and the end.

Taking the stack of poems in hand one by one, I then divided them into the five parts of the story based on what the poems were about and the lessons I learned within them. Sometimes I wasn’t sure where they fit so I set those aside to use later. If I had two possibilities for different parts of the story, I made that note on the bottom of the page.

I then took a section at a time and found the links between the poems to put them in order. Sometimes I felt inspired as I found larger stories between the poems, themes and questions that came up at the beginning fulfilled in the end. A great deal of the time, though, I struggled through, trying to find how they fit together and coming up short. It was gratifying and frustrating at the same time. The first section, especially, came together easily but the later ones were much harder. One section I reshuffled entirely and did over.

What I did find as I worked through the sections was the conversation between God and I that ran throughout the book. I also discovered some of the poems were even better when placed alongside another than they were by themselves. They brought out deeper truths in each other. Seeing the words come together as a cohesive whole, I feel like I now have the ultrasound for my baby. It’s no longer an abstract concept, but an identifiable thing. I’ve seen the picture and it’s beautiful. Even though the order of the poems is very much a rough draft and I still have some more to write, I love seeing it come together into a book.

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