Friday, October 28, 2011

The after book

My new mantra: the book is done. I repeat it every time I feel my shoulders creeping up to my ears, or I think about a project that I can't do just yet, or when I realize that I'm not being as productive as I could be. The book is done.
Yeah, the book was put together in a short time, but it's not like I started fresh, with a newly born idea on August first. It's on a subject that is near and dear to my heart, that I've already written about, repeatly, in my patterns, and even taught in my classes. Just dumping my words from other places gave me a major head start on the word count. I don't want anyone thinking it was slapped together, if for no other reason than I just can't do slapped together. It's not fair to the reader.
Any way. I jumped from the book deadline to my Quilt Market deadline. I'm doing Wash Away Applique Sheet demos in C&T's booth, and also Checker Distributor's booth. So, the minute I called the book done, I started right back into making step out. But this time it was all about playing with fabric. The samples are teeny tiny, just the size of a page, so it was a day of instant gratification.
I write this from the Hilton, right next door to the George R. Brown convention center, which, at this time every year, becomes a mecca for quilters. By next week tens of thousands (and that's no exageration) will descend on Houston for Market and Festival.
Today is Schoolhouse, a series of 15 or 30 minute infomercials from the vendors at the show. It's a lot like passing classes in high school. I'm going to try to be a good blogger and take pictures, but I'm not promising.
Market opens tomorrow. It's business, but it's also pleasure. These are my people, other professionals in the quilt industry that I only get to see once or twice a year. I'll be watching for new things, looking for new partners in crime and having one really great time.
Because the book is done.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A thousand paper cuts

There are parts of writing a book that I really love. While I enjoy putting my ideas into words, what I really love is editing those words. Getting the first draft done, getting all those words on a blank page is hard work. But editing is pure joy. Really! Instead of the struggle to find just the right word or to get the sequence of directions just so, editing is bullying those words around to make them earn their keep. I've just finished editing the book, and it's so much better than it was!

Of course, sewing the projects is awfully nice as well. I've sewn more in this month of October than I have in all the last two years put together. It's made me take a good look at how my time has been ordered, and helped me to decide that I truly need to spend more time at home, and especially at home sewing. The projects in the book are quilt designs that I've wanted to make for some time.

But, there are parts of writing a book with a publisher that are totally not fun. Perhaps it's because I self-published first. When working on my own I could start a sequence with a partially made block and photograph it, step by step, as I finished that block. Sending the step outs off to the publisher for photography means that I have to make that same block over and over and over again, each time taking the process a little further forward in the sequence. Ugh!
And then we have to keep track of all those bits and parts, which means paperwork, and lots of it. Image logs are spreadsheets that describe the tools and the focus of each step out. Of course it makes sense to have an orderly system. I have to communicate my expectations to the publisher and their photographers. Each step out gets a designation, either <<100.tif>> for a photo or <<100.eps>> for an illustration, for example.

Each step out is photographed as we'd like it to appear in the book. My set up for making videos (yeah, like that happened this year) turned out to be just the thing for taking these "snapshots". Once again, having self published, I was frustrated by the duplication of effort. With just a little more care (the snapshots don't have to be top drawer, just good enough to show what I want), I could have done the photos myself. And I wouldn't have had to make a thousand million repeats of the same block. See what I mean?

So, in addition to the Image Log, the snap shots need to be labeled and printed. More paperwork!
Finally, all the step outs need to be packaged. I started out with eight boxes of gallon sized zip top bags. I have one full box and a few left, meaning that I have prepared over a hundred individual step out samples. Here are the stepouts, bagged and ready to go off to their new home. I have one large bag for each chapter, which holds the zip top bags with each step.

Today is my last day to work on the book. My deadline to have everything to the publisher is November 1. Tomorrow I am leaving for Quilt Market, where I am scheduled to do demos showcasing the Wash Away Applique Sheets, (Which means more step outs!), so it must go out today. But, when the box is shipped I will have met all of my deadlines. I will have written a book, a book I've been writing in my head for years, in just three months time. Two months and a week's time if you take out all the travel time for the teaching I have also done since the first of August.
When I return from Market next Tuesday I will be officially "AB" - after book. Yes, there will still be times when I need to interact with the publisher. There will be another editing, and page layout and book design. But that's more my giving my approval of their work than me working. And it truly is exciting to see the book come to life.
I'm looking forward to finishing my Christmas Yet to Come quilt. And, believe it or not, starting work on the next book! But this go around, since I haven't even proposed it yet, I'll have all the time in the world! (Please don't quote that back to me!)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Still Breathing

Well, hello.
For the last two and a half months I have been singled mindedly working on the book. Dawn to dusk, and sometimes beyond, living the book. But so far I've made all the deadlines, more or less.
I can't help but wonder if I had allowed the same bravado that let me agree to this timeline carry me through the work if I'd be in better shape. I must admit that all too often my courage has failed me and I've considered tossing in the towel. Way too much of my energy has been spent on worry, but then I guess that's what worriers do.
The sample quilts are done and on their way to the publisher. That's a really big box to check off my to-d0 list. I'm quite pleased with how they turned out, I hope you will like them too. It's been a really long time since I've made quits that are just piecing, no applique. I did suffer a little applique withdrawal at first, but it quickly subsided as I fell into the lovely hum of my machine. I've sewn more in the last three weeks than I have in the last two years put together. And I liked it very much, thank you.
In the next week I will be working on the rewrite and finishing the step outs. I like editing, I like making the words sharper, cleaner. It's so much easier to rearrange words than to string together brand new words. My editor has given me great suggestions to help me get the words into top form. Somewhere along the way I'll show you some of the paperwork involved in writing a book with a publisher. Let's just say that I've changed ring binder sizes a couple of times, and still need more room.
So, it's back to work for me. My final deadline is November 1, but Quilt Market (which starts on Oct. 27 or so) will cut that short for me. I just wanted to check in to let you know that I was still among the living. Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer an oncoming train.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Making Progress

The book is the center of my universe for the next six weeks. Six weeks and the final deadline will arrive. I'm anticipating that I'll be able to sigh in great relief at a hard job well done. In the mean time, I'm working like a fiend.
Up until now I have had really nothing physical to show for all the time I've put in. It's been hours and hours in front of a computer screen, writing words, moving them around and then writing more. It's intense work, but even still, it's hard to understand why I'm exhausted at the end of the day when I've hardly moved a muscle.
I still have computer work to do, the graphics for most of the projects still need to be done, but now I've tipped over into the fun part. I get to sew!
Sewing is something I don't do nearly enough of. Honestly, months can go by without so much as turning on the sewing machine. But for the next half of the book work, I'll be a sewing fool. It's hard to remember, when I've been away from it for so long, how much I really love piecing. There's something meditative about it: the quiet hum of the machine, handling the fabric pieces, watching something grow from nothing.

While I'm piecing I often listen to books on my iPod. Right now I'm listening to Tom Clancy's Dead or Alive. (It was on a special sale on I am totally addicted to listening to books, it's a multi-tasker's dream.
The top and binding are done for quilt #1. There will be four bedsized quilts and three smaller projects. While the piecing will be a snap, I'm a little worried about getting all the quilting done. Of course I want to do it all myself. But I have faith that it will all work out as it should in the end. In the mean time, I'm off to start on quilt #2.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lessons I have learned from my boys.

Mother's Day. It's the day we're supposed to take our victory lap, sit back and be served, soak up the praise. This year, the boys (except for the oldest one who has moved just a little too far away, darn it all) were over to help ready the gardens for the big wedding coming up. Watching them work together, listening to them banter, fills me with joy. I got what I wanted the most for them, they have grown up to be friends.
It also had me thinking of all the things I have learned as they have matured. I am not at all the same person I was thirty years ago, when I first became a parent.
Patience. I have learned how to count to ten, repeatedly when necessary. I've learned that "now" is a relative term. I've learned that getting angry later is always an option, but getting angry right away is rarely productive. Sometimes what is not said is more important that what is said.
Perserverance. We are all ADHD in this household, to varying degrees. Some of us have learning disabilities as well. I have watched as my boys have faltered and failed, but never quit, at least not for long. Their victories may not be as flashy at being the top of their classes, but they are just as sweet.
Laughter. I can't imagine surviving this hoard without a sense of humor, and yet, I was rather humorless when I was young. I was so dog-gone serious, diligent, closed even, that I rarely let loose enough to laugh. My boys are quite the comics, and have, on many an occasion, saved their own skins with a well placed quip. It's awfully hard to dress down a kid while you're laughing.
Joy. Tragedies early in my life had me convinced that simple joy was not for me. My sons have taught me that happy moments don't have to be momentous to be profound. And that hugs can cure heartbreak.
Love. Love that doesn't come with strings attached, conditions to be met. Love that just is, just because. Love like no other. My boys (and especially their father), have taught me how to love and be loved, freely, fully and unfailing.
Truly, I am blessed.