In addition to finalizing the illustrations for our next Bobbledy Book (Robbi has a great post up that walks step-by-step through process of putting one of her illustrations together), we got the next Idiots’Books mailing ready to send out.
The book in question is a wire-bound mix-and-match book, which makes it one of our more complex binding challenges. Once the pages are printed, three pieces of equipment come into play: two trimmers and a hole puncher/wire-squeezer combo we call the Offi-Wire.
Each book has to be collated, punched, and trimmed into three horizontal strips. Then I hand the strips to Robbi, who feeds them into a wire comb, places a cover on top, and clamps the wire shut to create a finished book.
This process repeats hundreds of times, of course, a proposition made even longer when Robbi stops to photograph the action.
But eventually, as in all cases of putting one foot endlessly in front of the other, at some ungodly hour of the night, we get there.
But not without some casualties.
The book is called Sex to the Third Power: 1,000 Ways to Get it On. A send-up of The Joy of Sex and other home guides to the sexual experience, it is an interactive manual of sexual possibility, offering ten basic positions that recombine (through the wonders of the mix-and-match format) into 1,000.
We’ll show you some pictures of how it works soon. For now, rest assured that Sex is on its way.
In unassuming manilla envelopes.
Those of you who are new to the subscribership will see Robbi’s cheerful notes of welcome on the envelope.
One of the benefits of mailing a whole lot of something is that, instead of waiting in line at the post office, we get to take our bins full of books around back. I ring a bell, a postal worker appears, and the bins are carted off into the eye of the postal maelstrom.
I bid a tearful farewell and send them on their way.
Please let us know when Sex arrives and what you think of it. If you get it, that is. Not everyone does. Though anyone can, of course. If you’ve been meaning to subscribe (or resubscribe, for that matter), there’s no better time than the present.
There’s a moment that I’ve dreamed of for a long time, ever since I decided that I wanted to be a “writer.” It goes something like this: The mail arrives, and in it a box. In the box is a copy of a book that I wrote and someone else published. In the dream, the box might look something like this.
In a really good dream, a “wildest fantasies” sort of dream, the label on the box might bear the name of Chronicle Books, the world’s finest publisher of beautiful printed matter.
Seeing that label on the box, my wife and collaborative partner Robbi (because this is a dream, I get to imagine a really hot wife and collaborative partner) pauses wistfully, beholding the box with a pleasant mixture of gratification and wonder.
As if to say, there is something amazing in this box. This box contains a dream.
I, of course, can empathize. In this dream, I am humbled and amazed. Holding the box, it’s all I can do to keep from crying like a kid. The box is so light in spite of all that it contains, years of work and hope, late nights and mountains of doubt.
The box is a problem. It is a box, but also it’s a symbol, an emblem of something that Robbi and I have held in our minds as the highest mountain. We’ve been dreaming of opening this box for so long. The dream of this box has been pushing us forward.
Once we open the box, we can never open it again.
And so it sits on the work table, unopened and unspoiled. Three days and counting.
We will open the box, and probably someday soon. After all, it’s just a box, and what’s inside is just a book.
But for now, we like how it looks on the table.
The Chronicle excitement continued this week as another envelope arrived from the mother ship.
It’s always exciting to see that return address.
The thrill makes me hungry.
The excitement makes me hurry.
The anticipation drives me crazy.
The contents make me happy.
In this case, the contents were a letter from our editor, the amazing Bridget Watson Payne.
And (drumroll please), the Chronicle fall catalog.
Beautiful, as always, and as always, full of beautiful books.
And ONE book by two nobodies from the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Is it beautiful? You be the judge. I’m afraid we’re terribly biased.
Right there next to Did Jew Know?
This thing just keeps getting more and more real every day.
Next up: the arrival of the advance copies, which they say could happen any day now.
We have taken up residence on the front porch. The mailman fears us.
Though I suppose that’s nothing new.
The folks at Chronicle had told us that our book might pop up on Amazon sometime in early May. Today I was Googling about to see if that day had arrived and found this instead, the Ten Thousand Stories page on the Chronicle site.
It is a humbling thing indeed to find my name on the site of my dream publisher, a moment made even stranger and more sublime by seeing Robbi’s name there beside mine. This dream come true is coming true. One step at a time.
As you’ll see when you click on the link (we flatter ourselves to think that you might click), the book is now available for preorder.
And let’s have a closer look at that cover, shall we?
It’s a little more magnificent than the one Robbi and I cobbled together for our Idiots’Books version.
Amazing what a difference an actual designer (and a Chronicle designer, to boot) can make.
Apparently things are going to start happening more quickly now. We’ll get our copies of Chronicle’s catalog in the next week or so. And our advance copies of the real live printed book are due to arrive any day now.
I wonder if that’s the moment when this whole crazy dream will somehow seem real.
Or maybe it never will. Robbi and I, illustrator and author of a Chronicle Book? What?
I’d sooner believe it if you told me we’d walk on the moon.
When Robbi and I moved to Chestertown way back in the fall of 2006, we had no notion that we’d start a small press. We hardly knew what a small press was. We just wanted to make books together, and so we quit our jobs and moved into the barn so that we’d have some time and space to do it.
Our first book, Facial Features of French Explorers, required no other tools than a rotary trimmer and a stapler. It was a simple construction, known as a saddle-stich. Here’s an early post from our old blog that shows the process.
Our second book, Death of Henry, was slightly more complicated because it was perfect bound, meaning the insides of the book are stapled together first and then a separate cover is glued on. To make Death of Henry, we needed to purchase a scoring wheel to make the sharp folds that would enable us to create a nice-looking spine.
By the time we got to our third book, Ten Thousand Stories, were were already experimenting with delusions of grandeur. Robbi had the idea to make a mix-and-mach book, a format that requires wire binding, which is the only type of binding that allows pages to open absolutely flat. In order to bind with wire, we needed a wire binding machine. And so we went online and ordered one.
For years, the Offi-Wire has been a faithful companion, binding thousands of copies of Ten Thousand Stories, The Baby is Disappointing, Babies Ruin Everything, After Everafter, The Contented, Homer Was an Epic Poet, and Build Your own President. To say it has done yoemen’s work is to pay a compliment to yoemen.
But recently, tragically, the Offi-Wire has fallen on hard times. The handle, which used to stand straight up, has started to slump, the function of a broken spring inside.
Further, something has gone awry with the inner mechanics and the die no longer punches evenly.
We went inside to have a look and found that this piece is not where it should be.
And so, bucking sentiment and loyalty, we placed a call to our trusty purveyor of all things wire-related (they are called Lloyds of Indiana [I kid you not], and placed an order.
The new Offi-Wire looks a great deal like the old one.
Save a rounded front and an untextured handle.
Stoic and masculine, I was able to hold it together when the time came to take the old Offi-Wire to the curb.
Robbi, not so much.
And her sentiment is justified. The work of the Offi-Wire has taken us to miraculous mountaintops we never could have predicted when we punched our first version of Ten Thousand Stories. With the Chronicle version coming out in October, it seems somehow right that there be a passing of the guard.
But one glance at the new Offi-Wire, and Robbi’s heartache cleared up.
It still has that “new Offi-Wire smell,” after all. Just like catnip to your average book maker.
Last Tuesday, we drove north to AWP. This required us to drive briefly through New York City, but the passage was painless.
We spent Tuesday night with my mom in Andover, north of Boston. Wednesday morning, we drove downtown to the Hynes Convention center. Our destination: the loading dock. When you are hauling an entire van load of books, the front door does not suffice.
We schlepped our various boxes, tubes, and miscellany upstairs. Our booth looked so lonely when we got there.
And so I immediately set up our brand new Bobbledy signage, if only to set a cheerful tone that might buoy our spirits through the hours of booth setup.
Little by little…
…and bit by bit…
…a cozy and colorful space emerged.
We did our best to be welcoming.
And we tried harder than we have in the past to be clear about what it is we do.
Though the matter was complicated by the arrival of Bobbledy.
Still, we were pleased with how the booth looked.
And so we headed back to Mom’s. The weather had already started to turn.
The next morning, we decided to be economical travelers and take public transportation into the city. The first leg was the commuter train.
As we headed south, the snow began to fall.
The second leg was the subway, or the T, as it is known in Boston.
The convention center was a nice space with a vaulted atrium above the escalators.
There were lots of people there. Most of them writers, though at least one illustrator was in the house.
And an excited one at that.
Commerce was fairly rotten our first day. Our booth was tucked into the loneliest corner of the convention hall, and it took a while for anyone to find us. Thankfully, the people who did find us are among our favorite.
The wonderful, inimitable Amy Letter of Drake University.
The pensive, dashing Joshua Wolf Shenk, nonfiction writer extraordinaire, and the person who wrote the four-part Slate series about our collaboration a few years back.
And these guys, who distinguished our booth with snappy threads and literary verve.
And a kid. And his dad. They stopped to read each and every one of the Bobbledy Books.
And Emma Sovich, longtime friend and Editor of the Black Warrior Review.
Though I love her taste in shirts, I find it astonishing that she agreed to be seen with me, considering the state of my hair.
And Edward McPherson, writer, gentleman, and, as has been previously discussed, the hottest thing at AWP
Of course, there was some commerce as well. We bid a teary farewell to our homebrewed version of Ten Thousand Stories, a title that has graced the table of each and every book fair and convention we’ve ever attended, but which will soon have to be retired on account of the Chronicle version coming out next fall.
At the end of the day, we were tired, but not defeated.
Outside, snow was beginning to fall.
We headed north again to sleep.
The next day, the blizzard was on.
We decided to drive in (having discovered that the public transportation option actually cost more than the exorbitant parking fees at the convention center). For a while, we had the roads to ourselves.
But then we had to share it.
On day two at AWP, the crowds got thicker.
In part because people who had seen the booth the day before were telling their friends to come by and revel in the idiocy.
The highlight of day two was when Bobbledy club member Quentin came by to share his poetry with us.
He had written two poems for us and did an impromptu reading in the booth.
And they were amazing. AMAZING! I wish we could take a shred of credit for his creative genius, but we get the sense that his poet of a mother might have something to do with it.
We were honored with a visit from Andrea Martucci, friend and managing editor of Ploughshares.
We got a second visit from Joshua Wolf Shenk, whose rugged good looks warrant a second heaping of praise.
We got a visit from the poet (and all-around amazing person) Nicelle Davis, who was dressed as a poetry hustler, her coat covered with fur-lined “poetry pockets,” each filled with a poem by a poet who had not been able to afford to come to AWP this year.
It was a lovely, creative gesture. And I can honestly say that I have never had so much fun reading a poem.
Day three was even busier than the day before. The Book Fair was open to the public, and lots of people came by to see our stuff.
We tried to be as flexible as possible when it came to accepted modes of payment.
But I am relieved to report that there are still only three children in this family.
The highlight of day three was not the blistering sales, but an all-too-brief visit by none other than James Franco.
I’d like to tell you that he bought one of everything and kissed Robbi on the mouth, but that would not be true.
So long, AWP. For another year, at least.
We have been neglecting you for the past few days, it’s true. We’ve been lost in the maelstrom of planning and packing that precedes every book show or convention we attend. Tomorrow morning we head north for our biggest show of the year, the three-day Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, which is being held in Boston this year.
At most shows, we have a six-foot table. At AWP, we have a 10′ x 10′ booth. This means more space to fill, more books to make, and more signage to design and produce. This year, we have the added challenge of trying to fold Bobbledy into the Idiots’ space, somehow trying to create a booth that is able to accommodate both children’s books and stories that touch on such heady subjects as farting chipmunks and nose picking nuns.
To introduce Bobbledy to the literary set, we decided to go big, literally. Robbi designed a vertical banner, and we had it professionally produced.
But wait, there’s more. People approach our booth from two directions, and so we created another banner for the other side of the stand.
Robbi has promised that she’s going to stand by the banner just like that for all three days of the conference. In a cherry red bikini. If people try to talk to her, she’s going to pretend she knows only Swedish.
Although I wrote most of the copy on the banners, I cannot take credit for the “hay, hay, hay.”
That was all Robbi.
We also got a Bobbledly red table covering…
To complement the Bobbledy purple table runner Robbi designed and we had printed.
We think we’ll set up the Bobbledy table a little something like this.
Yes, there’s a sneak peek at the cover of the next Bobbledy book, Archipelago, which we had printed in time for AWP, but which won’t be going out to club members until the first of April.
Getting ready for these shows is a huge pain in the apple. Our studio becomes an open sore of boxes, bins, stacks of paper, assorted plexiglass stands, and the sundry bits and pieces that must be organized and packed before we hit the road.
Every year, Robbi has the fun yet tiring task of designing and producing new signage. She prints it on oversized watercolor paper and mounts it on foamcore.
The texture is pleasing and the colors are rich. Here’s our Bobbledy display. Robbi is frowning because she just spent 15 minutes putting it together and the panels are reversed.
But look, she is now happy because the panels are in their proper place.
And here is our display for the baby trilogy and onesies. There’s so much to look at in the conference hall. We have to compete to catch the eye.
Here’s the current state of affairs, the growing pile of boxes by the door downstairs. First thing Tuesday morning, we’ll pile them in the car and set out for Beantown.
For now, it’s time to sleep.
An exciting envelope arrived the other day.
Yes, it was from Chronicle Books, the world’s finest publishing house, the makers of things beautiful and thoughtful and funny and nice to touch.
Yes, we were excited.
Really, really excited.
Now, before you get too excited, we should say that the envelope did not contain finished copies of our book. That won’t happen for several more months, at least. This envelope contained the color proofs. The actual illustrations printed on the actual paper with the actual printer with the actual inks that will be used in the real, live book.
It was the first time we were seeing the layouts on paper. When done right (and Chronicle always does it right), images printed on paper look so much better than they do on the screen.
For those of you who are familiar with our classic, home-brewed version of Ten Thousand Stories, you might notice that the title page illustration below is new.
Working with our editor, we added a bunch of new content to the Chronicle version: an introductory letter, a mini-narrative (the tumultuous tale of grandma and her horse), a section of thumbnails of each of the stories and images, to name a few.
For those of you who do not know, when a book is printed, multiple pages print on one huge sheet of paper that are then trimmed down afterward.
For those of you who do not know, I am terrible at using Robbi’s camera, hence many of the photos I take end up rather blurry.
Drooling with delight over the quality of the printing and the paper, we heartily approved the proofs. Which means our book is being printed at this very moment. It’s a thrill we still can’t quite grasp.
Did we mention that this sucker is being published by Chronicle F!@#$G Books?
The mind reels.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the proof of the next Idiots’Book has arrived from the printer. The book in quesiton is called The World in Love. It is, like so many of our titles, a nonlinear, episodic musing on a topic that interests us. In this case, that topic is love, or more to the point, the cycles of love, the ebb and the flow, the rise and the fall.
But when the package from the printer arrived, we were not focused on what the book was about. We were concerned only with how it looked.
This book is printed “three up,” which means that, for reasons of economy, we order one big book that is made up of three small books and then cut them apart. Here’s how it arrived from the printer.
We loved how the cover looks. The red was just as rich and lush as we had hoped it would be.
Next we looked at the insides, which looked great, too. Until we discovered the trim line that Robbi accidentally left in the file.
Ultimately, an easy fix. This is the reason we order proofs, after all.
My rage was quickly overshadowed by appreciation of the satiny finish, which felt so pleasing against my freshly shaved cheek.
We could admire the proof for only so long before it was time to take out the guillotine cutter. Those three little books had to be liberated.
One long vertical cut brought us closer to the prize.
But a critical cut remained.
Another mighty slice, and we were done. At 4.5″ x 3.66″, The World in Love is our smallest book to date. At 80 pages, it’s also one of our longest.
As is our custom when we finish the first copy of any book, Robbi noted the date and time and added her Hancock.
Then I added mine.
Some day it will be fun to look back at our collection. This is volume 37. Somehow, they just keep adding up.
We removed the offending rule and ordered the rest of the shipment. We’ll get them in a week or so and, following some mighty reckoning with the guillotine cutter, will put them in envelopes and send them to you. Not quite in time for Valentine’s Day.
Which is probably for the best. We’re sometimes less than gentle with our subjects, and love is no exception.
Sometimes, I have something to post, but can’t quite tell which blog it belongs on. Today is one such instance. Last Friday, we got an email from joint Idiots’Books/Bobbledy Books subscriber Holly. The email contained an attachment: Holly’s submission to the Gorillas in the Kitchen contest. Clearly a Bobbledy Blog post, right? Something tells me it’s more aligned with Idiots’Books sensibilities.
You be the judge.
All I can say is, oh my.
Putting on my art director’s hat for a moment, Holly has done several things I admire.
She took the liberty of changing the title, which I thoroughly encourage anyone entering the contest to do.
She drew on revolutionary iconography to tap into a larger world of associations.
She made Che look sexy in cherry red lipstick. No easy feat, my friends. No easy feat.
And, finally, she spelled her name correctly. Not that this is a requirement, of course, but I feel she deserves some credit, nonetheless.
If you find yourself chuckling at Holly’s work, I suggest checking in on her web comic, the League of Lost Causes. And if you find yourself inspired to try to top her amazing cover with one of your own, I heartily encourage it.