With my mum gone for a couple of years now, it’s especially poignant for me to hear that old saw, “Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse!”
When I was just a baby, my mother taught me to recite “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Word has it that I could recite it all until I got to “The moon on the crest of the new fallen snow gave a lustre of midday to objects below.” But here’s the thing: I was only a baby. I wasn’t even 2 years old – I was one and a half. She read it to me every night getting ready for Christmas and then I recited it with her, so she knew I had learned it. Then I just said it without the book. (Have I mentioned to you that I have ALWAYS been verbal?) So now when I think of the lovely rhythms and rhymes in the poem, how I learned the words in sequence, the patterns of the word rhythms, the meanings such as I could gather – not much at first but reinforced as the years went on, I am just so grateful that my mum took all that time to love me in that way.
Now when I use words, appreciate words, think or write, I have such gratitude to my dear and loving young mother who gave me that great gift. She was just 30 years old or so, and delighted in life. She really listened to what I said, and it brought out in me the ability to speak. She didn’t necessarily correct me but allowed me to discover what I was saying, what I was expressing, and affirmed it at source. It was a way for her to love me and for me to love her back.
Later, when I became older, adolescent and more secretive, thinking that I was so very different from her and her expectations of me, I held back my words from her. I didn’t tell her what I was thinking or doing. But by then I could write, and think, and read, for myself, or so I thought. Yet when I wrote in my diary, or had my private worded experiences I was actually building on the foundation that she had begun for me so many years before, singsong reading The Night Before Christmas, or encouraging a little baby to speak, and tell, and share. Not information, but rhythm, sounds, and love, in the beauties of the English language, with all its quirks and playful twirls and swirls. At the time I took it all for granted. All those words, flying through our hearts on the wings of love!
The heart is overexposed
In light too high to see with any eye
How can words be known here
Where all is blinded light?
The listening heart hears
The rush of love’s waterfall
As a million butterflies per second
Crash into the pools below.
On the mountain peaks
Siva wears his snake around his neck
Like a prize
He has let it out completely –
And uses it now as a garland.
Yearning toward this freedom
My own wisdom illuminates
The seven caves
All elaborately decorated with images of you.
(I’ve been reading over some of my earlier poems – I’ll post them here from time to time.)
When I was younger I was wise and inspired,
Now I look around and can barely find myself.
What happened? Was anything lost or gained?
Who am I? Have I become anything at all?
Sitting here, seeing the world at dawn,
I know what those old Chinese poets meant:
Floating beneath drooping willow branches
My boat drifts on the calm river.
I sip last night’s wine and watch
(Surprise: Link here to see a random post from my blog.)
I just felt that it would be good to sum up where we are to date, before launching into the next phase. So here’s a quick overview of what’s been going on since Alpha Glyph began active operations in January of 2006. I’ve helped many clients with various stages of their book and publications projects, and have produced some work myself that had been waiting for my attention.
Coaching I’ve found that the book coaching service we offer has been very helpful to people who are in the process of defining their project or if they need the accountability that a book coach can provide. It’s been wonderful to be able to participate in the early stages of a writing project through book coaching.
Website and Blog I created the website for the company very early on, and have adapted it over the year with a few changes. The blog came on-stream partway through the year, and has given me the opportunity to reveal more about what we do, for anyone who is interested in finding out more about this endeavour.
Some client questions, which have come up over the year:
- Is self-publishing for you?
- Is this the right time for you to put out your work?
- Is print the right medium, or do you want a website, a blog, a video blog, a podcast?
- Do you need to go back and look more closely at your work before bringing it out?
- And so many more questions have appeared from various clients, and clients-to-be, each specific to their needs.
The first full book I worked on was a comprehensive educational publication for early childhood teachers. From substantive editing at the manuscript stage to the final layout, cover design and publication, I worked closely with the author, despite our physical distance from one another. The book was challenging as it was comprised of five very different sections which needed a unifying theme in order to be seen as part of one whole. As well, it was illustrated with photographs and line drawings, and also included musical notation. The whole project was a success and the author was very happy with the resulting book.
A brochure for a financial planner hit the skids, however. It didn’t see the light of day, as the client wanted a look and feel that was quite different from the approach that I had taken. Instead of “BUY “NOW”!! (flash flash red yellow flash flash) and Win the Race!” (photos of racehorses), I had taken a more subdued and reliable-seeming direction, saying with colour and form “your investment is safe with us.” Ultimately he took the project back and did it himself, adding his own personal flair and pizazz.
First E-Book The next book I worked on was simple book design and layout for an e-book. It gave my InDesign skills a workout and also enabled me to try the download system.
Archive Site and Blog The comprehensive Shamcher archives are an ongoing Alpha Glyph project. Last year I produced two websites for these archives – one static site and one blog site, which is being kept up on a regular basis. I’ve prepared articles as PDF downloadable documents available from the site, to accompany the other materials that are posted on the regular archive. Categories and tags are important here, and the process also involves document scanning, editing and posting.
Poetry Book In the last year I edited and laid out a book of poetry which includes full colour images inserted into the publication. With this book I worked closely with the author, and found it was important to do so as each word could have an alternate spelling. With poets every space can be as important as the words themselves, while some word could be invented for its sound quality when read aloud, or for the image of the type on the page.
Facsimile Book I produced an archival facsimile book of images taken from a 1970′s early zine-format book. Here the original was scanned and reduced to become a commemorative book for a small community. A fun project, and a good example of publishing for a small audience using print on demand.
I Self-Publish I also published two books of my own, from material that had been circulated earlier in various forms. One had been self-published, but not as a perfect-bound book in a standard size. This was laid out with some copy-editing and republished. The other had been published episodically in a periodical but never as a single volume, so I laid it out and published it as well.
Additional writing projects have always been a part of the Alpha Glyph work this past year.
- Business Plans I helped to coordinate the material and finesse the business plans for three very different businesses in the past year.
- Project Proposals As well, I produced two complex project proposals, compete with rationale, full outline of content, timeline, milestones, personnel and itemized budgets; one for a broadcast video series, the other for an interactive media production.
- Copyright Search I also did comprehensive copyright search and permissions for a client.
Manuscript Assessment I’ve done manuscript assessment for various books and one book series in the past year, and have met with many individuals regarding their book or card projects, either in person, by phone or through email.
Blogging has been a very busy activity for the company, which has seen over 800 articles posted in the blogs we’ve created over the past year, many including links, illustrations, photography and video.
Video blogging has been a fun part of our services and so far we have produced 44 short episodes that have been posted to clients’ websites or blogs, and on YouTube. These range in length from 1 minute to 7.5 minutes.
Other Materials For one book which is still in the first draft stage, I have also been engaged in creating fundraising and ancilliary materials to be used to gather interest in the project as a whole.
Professional Contacts I’ve participated in the monthly Blogger’s Meetup Group and various networking groups for entrepreneurs, as well as the Northern Voice Blogging Conference, all as part of professional development and for potential client contacts.
In process as I write this are three books in the layout/final copyedit stage, almost ready for the printer. There is one book in the manuscript stage (still in early days) and two nascent long-distance projects in the works.
Promotion of the company Being so busy with actual projects, we have had to leave some of our plans for promotion for the company on the back burner. We keep this blog going as one of our main forms of contact.
In fact, we are expanding the company’s blogging capability, through alphablogs (which I mentioned in my last posting). In this post, I haven’t mentioned all the blog experiences or the refinement of the blogging processes that we’ve been developing, but watch this space!
Editing and preparing a poetry book is a wonderful process. It requires tact and delicacy as well as close collaboration with the poet. It just isn’t possible to spellcheck and copyedit such phrases as “quocking mongst a twittered groin” unless the writer is completely involved! This project had another layer of complexity as well, as isabella required that all writing is done in lower case, and she describes why in her introduction. Like all poets, isabella works with layout and line length and the look of the poem on the page, so again close collaboration was key to the success of this book. It took several iterations back and forth until we found the exact layout that worked for the poems, for the poet and for the publisher. I prefer to work closely with the writer so this process of review at every stage was very satisfying for us both.
This poetry project had the additional aspect of using images to illustrate each chapter section, requiring a more complex print process involving colour insert pages, which necessitated a more complicated layout and delivery to the printer. Happily, all this can still be done with print on demand, a technology that really does enable the printing of much more poetry than ever before.
Of course for years poets have been using the letterpress to produce their chapbooks and slim volumes in small runs. But poets without access to a letterpress can find this process quite expensive if they go to a print shop. Not only that, but the digital ease with which the print on demand process works means that the volume can be easily reprinted at any time, and at a relatively low cost per item.
One feature that differentiates this tea table book from other poetry publications is that the poet explains in prose the background to each poem, giving the reader another way in to the poem’s meaning and purpose. Balancing the prose and the poems, while still featuring the poem was a visual challenge that we both collaborated on.
One of the best aspects of being a book coach is seeing the final work as a book, not as an idea or as a manuscript. I sat down with the draft version of this poetry book and was amazed and impressed with the depth of feeling and the clarity of image that isabella had brought to the pages. The process was almost over (just a few minor tweaks to go) and the book was in its form at last. Poems from 1980 – 2006 were set out for all to read and relish. When the final version of the book was made public, the intense process had already vanished from our minds, leaving only the poetry – the voice of the poet.
For more on this book, and on isabella’s work, go to teatablebook.com.