I mentioned I used to make books as a kid. A one-of-a-kind book that, at best, was read by seven or eight people. To whom I was related.
One of my blog followers who knew me when I was a young teenager has sent me one of my “plays”! Isn’t that amazing? I can’t believe this had survived for nearly 50 years. It is complete rubbish of course!!
My kids – especially Esme and Charlotte – also made books. Esme had a brilliant cartoon/comic strip about a tooth. Very funny and poignant, actually. And Charlotte, who is talented and artistic, produced lots of rabbit stories as a small child, is currently working on a couple of kid’s books. The latest one is really funny. I am hoping we might collaborate a bit.
So what is the secret of writing a jolly good book?
A dear friend of mine – Ann Tabak – self-published a book about her life. It is not available to buy but she gives it away to friends, and it is very special. She told me:
If you are going to write a book you either need a fantastic imagination, or a very interesting life!
Her life was of the very interesting variety and, although the writing is not “professional”, I think her book is absolutely brilliant. It’s strength is that it is about Ann’s life which was harsh and shocking, but she survives. Like Ann I couldn’t manage a work of fiction. While I enjoy reading novels and short stories, I am not able to write fiction, although I admit I have tried.
So if you are not that good at making things up – a friend runs the Liars’ League which concerns itself with short story fiction – you had best stick to nonfiction. By definition we are now in the realm of truth, facts, and everyday reality.
So the key question I have asked myself is – if I tell the truth will it add something to the world? Are other people interested in my experiences (eg learning to knit, losing my ex-husband, managing my time), opinion (how to dress for work, have we reached peak stuff? why it is nice to look nice) and instructions (how to make a jersey, or a hat, or a draped skirt)? And the simple answer is that people read the blog so I hope they find the mix of topics interesting. Can I create a narrative around this material that holds it together and makes sense to other people?Although I will talk about my own experience I believe that many of the issues and challenges I face are common and will resonate with others. Can I do what I already do, but better?
Maybe not. Self doubt is a killer. I admit I have plenty of self-doubt, but I am going to move on. Never be afraid to test your limits, and fail. It can only make you better – at sewing, knitting, fitting, or writing.
I am also thinking about you, my kind, engaged, thoughtful and generous readers. Some have already offered to proof read, help with design and layout, test the patterns. But I have been wondering how I can include you in the project. I would love you to collaborate with me, if you would. Two ideas are on my mind
- Photographs of you knitting or sewing in unusual places. I don’t know if you remember the extreme ironing challenge? These images may have been photoshopped but most were genuine and quite funny.
I wondered if you would be kind enough to send me a (big, clear) photograph of you doing a craft activity in an unusual place. It doesn’t have to be that unusual – a beach, plane, kids’ judo session, in a queue, in bed, on the tube or where ever you do it!
- A drawing or sketch that relates to making beautiful things. Or something you might write, in your own handwriting, that expresses your approach to making. As colourful as possible!
The deadline would be February I guess so plenty of time. Maybe you could email it to me? I am firstname.lastname@example.org.
If any of you are worried about me “monetising” my blog, or “going commercial”, please let me reassure you that I don’t expect to make any money! I will be selling the book in an attempt to recoup the costs of producing it. If (very unlikely) I should make a profit on it I will give the proceeds to a homeless charity, so you don’t need to feel that your photograph or drawing would be exploited, but I would need you to agree to me owning and publishing it (fully credited). I am asking for a gift – don’t feel obliged!
So this is what I have done so far
- Named my baby: Making Life more Beautiful: a maker’s handbook
- Created a one sentence summary: Tips, projects and stories to make busy lives more beautiful and meaningful
- Decided on the dimensions: 200 pages of A5 with 40 full colour photographs, illustrations, diagrams and other types of marginalia
- Drawn up a Table of Contents:
- LIFE (Beliefs; Work; Family; Community)
- MAKING (Sewing; Knitting; Crochet; Textiles; Creative environment)
- BEAUTY (Wardrobe; Body Shape; Colour; Beauty within)
- The Table of Content has enabled me to produce my writing schedule; I aim to complete the first draft of the text by 1 January 2018, and the book design (including patterns, illustrations, photographs etc) by 1 April 2018. I am trying to write different sections each weekend, and so far I have covered section 1 and 2 and I am into the Making section. This requires technical instructions which I struggle with. I can’t write a beginner’s book – but I want to encourage people to have a go. So it is difficult to pitch it right, and also explain how to do things that are better shown face to face.
I’ll be buying your book Kate x
Thank you Grace. I will have to write it then!
I like your project Kate, and profits to the homeless – what could be better! I don’t currently have a pic of me crafting in an oddball place, the camera isn’t usually on my mind when I’m crawling across a teeny floorspace in a London flat laying out fabric, or balancing a sewing machine on a wobbly piano stool with the flex draped over my shoulder, but I’ll keep it in mind in the next couple of months.
Thank you for you support Jay – I love the image of you with the piano stool and draped flex!
I mentioned giving away the profits in order to reassure everyone that I don’t expect to make any money on this venture. In fact, like blogging, I expect to be out of pocket at the end. I don’t know much about publishing books but I know that the author normally makes very little – unless you are writing a block buster. I will cover more on the finances as we go.
Sounds wonderful- I shall have to think of something for you….
Oh goody! I am sure you will be able to think of something really weird!!
Kate- about the instructions– when I got stuck trying to explain something for my book, Creating Couture Embellishment, I would hold the pieces in my hands and say the instructions aloud, as if I were talking to a class (or a child.) Then I would quickly type that step into the computer. Often what I spoke/wrote was pretty terrible, full of “just wiggle this over until it matches this other bit,” but it’s easier to edit something terrible than nothing. This process help me write more than 400 pages of directions for all kinds of techniques: gathering, pleating, beading, quilting…. Hope this helps!
Hi Ellen – thank you so much for this priceless tip. What a labour that must have been – you must have been completely imploding by the end. I am in awe of professional, couture techniques and no wonder you had to work so hard to get their description spot on. However I shall try this, exactly as you suggest.
Hi Kate, you’re cracking on already, I’m impressed.
Re the making section, You coul focus on the history of creating, the why’s rather than how’s and how societal changes have changed how we access info etc. There is a massive craft industry that goes under a lot of people’s radar and you could do a bit of signposting rather than re-inventing the wheel.
What appeals to me as a reader is your willingness to jump in and experiment and I like your popular posts about styling particularly when you demonstrate with pictures.
A book that my children (and I) adored when they were growing was Frank and Polly Muir’s Big Dipper, it was a compendium full of interesting stuff for kids, your book looks like a similar concept.
Consider EZ style of writing – she instructs us how to knit but in the most chatty, friendly wordy way possible. Connect your makes (sewing, shoes, knitting etc) with life experiences. Instructions and tips that sit alongside stories.
This is a wonderful idea Ruth – a sort of EZ for sewists. I would like to think about that for another time. EZ did have a very particular style which I don’t think I could begin to emulate, but there is something about involving people and making them feel confident that I think is priceless. As a teacher you must have thought about this – how do you help students gain confidence and produce good work without intimidating them by setting the standards too high.
I’m fascinated by this project and yet again full of admiration for your time management skills. The actual process of writing a book is clearly quite complicated but it’s great you have so many family members, friends and readers able to share their expertise and knowledge. Your enthusiasm for this and every other project you undertake is very infectious – my head is full of plans for future makes.
I wish I’d thought to do a bit of sewing in the snow for a photo contribution!
Good luck with the next phase.
Thank you for your warm words Michelle and snow sewing is a fantastic idea….
Planning is at least half the fun, isn’t it? My head is full of plans for future makes too – I think this is why we (ahem, I) buy far more materials than we need.
It is surprisingly complicated, especially as I want to know how to make an actual book, not just write one. And there is hours of work involved. But it is very interesting and satisfying. There will be a short section on time management!
What an interesting project! My “unusual” sewing is rather limited-but as my sewing room is still not completed, I’m sewing in the laundry room…or I could just sew in the construction zone. haha. Can’t wait to see this all come together, and I’ll be buying one, no question.