On how a book is made. Or not.

A lot of people have asked for a book that includes all of my conversations with Jessica. I post these conversations on Facebook, where my friends hang out, so I sort of think, “Yeah, I collect the conversations into a book and then the three friends of mine who are solvent will buy it. The end.”

Upon reflection I decide maybe this is just a sign that I’ve been in publishing for too long, and all I can think about is sales, and it’s true. Everyone who has ever been an editor or an agent has gotten the query that goes, “All of my kids/both of my parents/some of my friends think I should try to get this book published,” and then what follows is crap. So I don’t want to publish crap, even if I self-publish it, and even if doing so is easy and free.

I ponder this dilemma. I don’t want to turn the conversations into stories; stories about Jessica are another problem, one I’m not going to deal with today. It’s the conversations I’m thinking about at the moment. The distinction may matter only to me, but matter it does.

Then I have a flash of brilliance and/or desperation. What if the book isn’t just a collection of conversations with Jessica? What if, I don’t know, we add pictures? Maybe cats. People like cat pictures. The only problem is I can’t draw and I don’t have the budget to hire an illustrator or buy photos.

I bounce this idea off a friend who’s an artist, and she says, “You shouldn’t take ‘can’t draw’ as an obstacle to an illustrated book,” which is the kind of thing that you don’t actually expect an artist to say.

In her note she references a comic strip that is drawn by someone with no artistic talent whatsoever, and so I figure, “Hey, maybe she’s right. I’ll give it a try.”


Then I have a moment where I think, “Holy crap, it’s a good thing I can write or I’d starve to death.”

Jessica happens upon me as I am doodling in my notebook, thinking I might turn into an illustrator with an hour or two of practice. She creates some drawings, too, and demonstrates that she has inherited her mother’s talent.

So then I look at my artist friend’s note to me again and I spot where she says, “I could also see it working just using page layout and typography.” It’s sort of like she had a premonition . . . .Page layout and typography. Sounds PERFECT to me.













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  1. I LOVE these drawings! And I see the seeds of wonderful book illustrations in them.

    Like writing, developing illustrations is a process of successive refinement. And the first step is often a series of scribbles or doodles. When you are writing, you do the equivalent stage in the privacy of your own brain. You might have a few associated words (none of which comes close to being right!) but nothing looks like a sentence, and besides, it’s all a bunch of trite cliches that you’re embarrassed to even THINK, never mind put on the page.

    Visual artists have to do this floundering first step right out there where anyone can peer over their shoulders. Is it any wonder we get a reputation for being secretive?

    Experienced artists appear to flounder less because, like anything, it’s faster for subjects and styles you’ve practiced. I seem to recall you writing an entire novel in a month last November! Illustration might be outside your comfort zone and experience, but it’s definitely not outside your ability. Maybe we need to schedule a weekend retreat together. I’ll help you develop your cartoon characters and you can help me figure out how to structure my book. 🙂

  2. Oh, and p.s.: “Don’t bother about whether or not you have it [talent]. Just assume that you do, and then forget about it. Talent is a word we use after someone has become accomplished.” — Richard Schmid (generally considered one of our most accomplished living painters, http://www.richardschmid.com)

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