Honoring the work and memory of one man
When Michael Gery offered to chronicle his church's story it was with the understanding that he would work alone. Gery understood it would expand his "workload immensely," but that didn't matter. He wasn't interested in working with a committee on the project. He was, he wrote, "always more interested in the quality of the project" and feared writing by committee would result in a book that was "disjointed, and written in different voices."
Though he died before he was able to publish his work, Michael Gery did complete an impressive amount of writing and research. Gery's wife, Lisa, states in the dedication that, "He spent years collecting and reading books and historical documents, visiting local historical societies, conducting interviews, and culling the church's voluminous files of sermons, logs, and annual reports. At the time of his death, he had more than three hundred files of partially written chapters and appendices."
Lisa Gery, with the support of church member and editor Jo Ann Augeri Silva, pulled together the work Michael Gery had done and created a manuscript. Transformation Through Time, Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, is an impressive body of work.
This book holds not only the history of the church, but the history of the "political and religious movements that led to its founding." From a design perspective it is a complex text with deep footnotes and few photographs. Understanding that it would be a hefty book (the spine is just under an inch thick), the book is 7.5" x 9.25" with a generous 2" inside margin.
The result is a book that opens easily, has plenty of white space, and gives readers room to breathe.
Though I never met Michael Gery, his interest in creating a body of work he could be proud of will, I imagine, inspire his congregation and readers alike as it inspired me.
Your book: a work in progress
Last fall I published my first book, A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice.
In the process, I kept my writing and all the ideas swirling about in a 3-ring binder. I learned a lot, and I want to share what I know ... with you.
The working title is Book in a Binder.
I didn't expect was how valuable the binder would become. When I was stuck (yes, overwhelmed, and sometimes unmotivated), I'd flip through the binder to review my notes. I rediscovered lists where I could check off what I'd already accomplished (that felt good), along with things I once thought valuable that were now ... not so much. And then there were other ideas and topics that somehow became better with time.
The Book in a Binder is coming together ... in a binder of its own.
If you're interested in knowing when it's available, sign up for my newsletter ... and get writing tips, entertaining stories about writing, and information you can use.
"I don't know what to do."
That's what Barbie wrote when she contacted me about her book.
She'd been working on her memoir for years. The writing was done and she wanted to move forward, to publish the book, but she had so many questions.
Should she find someone to edit the book? Where could she get a cover design? And what about the inside? She had no idea where to begin.
She's not alone.
Writing a book is a huge accomplishment, getting it into book form and publishing it is another.
Together we reviewed her manuscript, edited and organized what she'd written, talked about titles, cover designs ... and how and where to get it published.
As we worked through the project, Barbie often thanked me for my guidance and told me she was learning so much about the process.
I was learning, too. Learning about how hard it can be for writers to share their work, to hand it over and trust things will work out.
Last month after Barbie's book was published, she sent me a note:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have been a dream to work with. I am so happy with my book. I could NEVER have done with out you."
Do you have a book tucked in a drawer ... waiting to be published?
Do you have an idea for a book but aren't sure where to start?
I can help. Especially with things like ...
So there's this dog up the street; a menacing, bothersome dog. It came at me on Sunday, full bark. It was one more run-in with a dog that reminded me of another run-in, so I decided to write about it.
After getting it all down, it was too long, so I edited what I'd written. And edited some more. But there was still one bit that wasn't right.
Does that happen with your writing?
You have too many (or too few) words, but still struggle to find the right ones? Well, I kept at it until I found the one word that would fix it all: dumbfounded.
Here's the story. I'm sharing it because it's ridiculous and good for a laugh if you need one.
Years ago I was walking with Agatha, my long-earred, droopy-eyed, red-and-white basset hound. It was early morning and I decided to mix things up and walk through a neighborhood across the avenue.
We were two blocks in when a German shepherd bolted from the side of a one-story house on the corner.
Now Agatha was a sweet, easy-going dog and she merely raised her head, looked at the German shepherd, and continued on her way. I should have followed her lead, but that dog just kept barking and circling, getting closer and closer, and it was making me nervous.
And then I heard a voice.
A woman's voice coming from inside the house. It was hard to make sense of it all, but there she was, peering out from a six-inch gap at the bottom of an open window. With her head tilted to the side and wedged in the opening, she spoke again.
"Ask him if he wants a bath," she said.
"What?" I asked (though I was fairly certain I heard what she said).
"Ask him if he wants a bath," she said again. Dumbfounded, but feeling a bit desperate, I did what she said.
Turning to the circling German shepherd I said, "Do you want a bath?"
That dog stopped barking, dropped his head, tucked his tail, and turned back toward the house. The gap in the window closed.
Dumbfounded. Until I found that one word, I was struggling with the story. I tried writing about how confused I was, how I wasn't sure about what I was hearing ... blah, blah, blah.
So I kept at it. Walked away a few times. Rewrote what I had written. And did it all again. Writing is hard for all of us because writing is hard.
Do you sometimes struggle with writing?
I can help. Especially with things like ...
Last week I juiced a lemon. Before slicing it open to squeeze out the juice, I rolled it (with slight pressure) under the palm of my hand across the countertop. Rolling the lemon (or lime, or orange) before juicing loosens the sections inside making it easier to extract the juice. It’s a tip I learned years ago ... from a recipe.
I’d be toast without recipes ... and I’m sweet on new ones.
You might think I don’t like to cook or that I’m not a good cook because I marinate and pour over recipes. But that’s not the case. I cook a lot and consider myself a decent (well, OK, good) cook, but I’m not a wing-it cook. Sure, I can cook a dish I’ve cooked a number of times without looking at the recipe, but I’m not a toss it in the pan and see what happens kind of cook.
I’ve tried that approach.
Sometimes with good results, most times, not. Cooking takes time and effort and I don’t like wasting either. Recipes don’t come with guarantees, but I do like the order and guidance they offer.
Of course I’ve cooked enough to know when I might like more garlic in the sauce or less sugar, but I’m faithful to what the recipe calls for. Especially when I bake ... where there’s far less margin for a lot more of this or a little less of that.
It’s what I like about cooking.
The endless supply of how-to information.
It’s a profession where experts share their knowledge. They tell you whether or not you should mince, dice, or chop. Instruct when a dash or dollop will do. And they share their ingredients, methods ... and recipes. Detail after detail.
Is that a good idea? Won’t all that sharing turn around and bite them? Won't it dilute their brand? After all, if they show us how to do it, what will we need them for?
We need them to continue advising us.
To suggest new techniques, methods, and ingredients based on their experience. To guide us and help us succeed. To develop new recipes.
When cooks share their expertise, they offer the reassurance we need to move forward. It’s a powerful way to connect and earn trust.
No matter your profession, you can do the same.
Sharing your knowledge can position you as an expert in your field, and it may, in the process, garnish renewed zest for what you do.
Want to share what you know?
There are lots of ways to do it. In a blog, through videos, a podcast ... and books.
While I know a bit about blogs, I don't know much about videos or podcasts.
But I do know about books.
Get the infographic, Navigating the Path to Writing a Nonfiction Book, and start planning your book ... to share what you know, where you've been, or how you did it.
Click on the image below to download and print your copy.
And if you have any questions, give me a call at 207-252-9757 or send an email. I'd love to help.
Spend more time with the people you love and like best
Wow. I'm so proud to be able to say my book, A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice, is done. What a great feeling. And a lot of work.
The idea for the book came about from seeing articles about the demise of cursive writing. Some say it doesn't matter now that we have computers and ask, "What's the point?"
A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice combines the benefits of letter writing with the benefits of writing by hand in an uplifting, informative, and beautifully illustrated book. The book showcases the elements of a letter, cursive writing instruction for each letter of the alphabet, and the inspirational I Write Letters to Say series.
Bring family and friends closer with letters, cards, and notes.
In The New York Times article, “Snail Mail Is Getting People Through This Time,” Tove Danovich writes about creating meaningful connections through letter writing during the pandemic.
And despite the controversy and demise of cursive writing instruction in schools, a new study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology reveals handwriting to be an important aspect of learning.
Spend more time with the people you love and like best.
Put a stamp on it.
Do you know a teacher or students who would benefit from the book? Tell them about A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing Practice.
A cover that works
Last week I submitted the cover for my book, A Snail Mail Guide to Cursive Writing, for a public, online review by a publishing company.
You've seen the early sketch.
Because I'm self-publishing the book, I was interested in getting feedback from professionals in the book business. More than 600 covers were submitted. Yesterday I watched the webinar, wondering if my cover design would be selected. It was.
Of course my initial excitement was quickly tempered with the knowledge that I had to be prepared to hear the good ... and the bad, so I braced myself.
Would it be a good review?
Yes, it was. And I have to admit, it felt good.
What did they say?
"Really nice. It's got a retro vibe."
"This has that cohesion, that gestalt ... where it just feels really tight."
And two suggestions: remove "by" in front of the author's name, and "make the author's name bigger." Done.
Of course the cover is just one element in writing and pulling together a book. It's a lot of work. If you've got a book, ebook, report, or magazine idea simmering and need help with the structure, inside layout, or editing, let's talk.
Look like the professional you are
digital (and print) publication design
ebooks • books • magazines • reports • catalogs
Feeling out of sorts or know someone who is?
It happens to all of us. Those days when we're just not ourselves. When we're not quite sure why, but we feel edgy or bored. A little antsy. To feel better, we lounge on the couch, we watch too much television, take (another) trip to the kitchen for a snack, or grab the mobile phone and scroll (endlessly), barely absorbing what we're looking at.
But it doesn't help.
So what can help?
Try doing something. Something that engages your mind, your body, and your curiosity.
Turn things around
I wrote this ebook because in the last few months I've had good days and not so good days. Along the way, I had a revelation. The days when I'm able to turn things around are the days I do something. When I take action and challenge myself.
At least for a little while.
It's the distraction that makes things better. To step away from my routines, the news, my work, and worries.
Even if things are going well for you today, consider downloading the book and passing it on. Maybe it could help someone you know. Share it with them ... and let me know what you think.
Look like the professional you are
digital (and print) publication design
ebooks • books • magazines • reports • catalogs
If you recognized the headline from this post as the title of a Rolling Stones song, you're right.
You can't always get what you want.
I’m in the final stages of finishing my book and discovered a problem. A new problem. I’ve already worked out other issues: a new book title and new book cover. I’m pleased with the new title and cover, but it's the layout that’s causing me fits.
So what’s the problem?
It’s a workbook and I wanted to design the book in landscape format with a spiral binding it so it would open flat and offer plenty of elbow room for practice writing.
But I also want to publish the book through two self-publishing houses: IngramSpark and Amazon’s KDP. IngramSpark offers the landscape option, KDP does not. Neither offer spiral binding.
From the beginning I knew I would publish and sell the book from my own websites, but I want it to go further than that. Publishing through IngramSpark and KDP will broaden the book's reach and get it into more hands. After all, that's the reason I'm writing the book. So I made the decision to reformat it. Ugh. That means reformatting every single page. It’s a lot of work.
Get what you need
So yes, it’s true. You can’t always get what you want. But, as the song goes, “if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”
Turns out, I like the cover better and though it’s been time consuming, the portrait layout is working well.
And getting what I want? When the book becomes a best seller, I'll think about a special edition ... horizontal format with a spiral binding. Wouldn't that be something.
p.s. Here's the new cover.
digital (and print) publication design
Write today to start looking like the professional you are.
Book design: working small to go big
Thumbnails - sometimes smaller is better
Early in my graphic design career I was taught to use thumbnail sketches to work through ideas. They're small (as the name indicates), and a rapid way of generating prototypes and work through ideas. This is the thumbnail of my latest (and final!) cover design.
This week and the coming weeks mark the final stretch for getting my book done. It’s gratifying to be so close.
A new cover design
I wasn’t as thrilled as I should have been with my early cover designs—I knew I was close, but something was off. When I put the covers out there and asked for your feedback you came through. The cover that got the best response was the one that featured a cursive letter with arrows indicating how to write the letter.
A new title
The title needed work, too. Ultimately, it’s a workbook that suggests the better, more interesting way to practice and improve your cursive writing skill is to do it with snail mail: to send letters, cards, and notes. It was clear from the feedback I received and reading I’ve done that cursive writing and snail mail needed to be in the title.
When I played around with titles and the order of the words, it sounded better and more interesting to start with “A Snail Mail Guide ...” rather than "Cursive Writing Practice..."
With the new title, it all came together. The A is a beautiful letter that has movement and style, providing the cursive example I needed that worked with the title.
The next step is to have a few people read through it. I got feedback on an early draft of the book, but this time it’s for the whole book. I’ve been doing a lot of research on self-publishing and this is a big part of getting it right. Beta readers: readers who read your book when it’s ready to go—but before it’s published. I’ll ask for feedback and reviews. The reviews can be used to help preview and promote the book.
There’s so much to consider, but as I learn more, it becomes less and less intimidating and overwhelming. Of course, being nearly there helps, too.
There are three sections to the book:
1) a detailed guide to writing cursive letters,
2) the I Write Letters to Say section that features handwriting samples from different people—apparently, if you haven’t been taught cursive writing, it can be difficult to read it.
3) and the third section—all about snail mail: how to address an envelope, where to put the stamp, and of course, the elements of a letter and who to write to.
Thank you for your encouragement and kind words. You’ve helped me sort things out and make a better book. I can’t wait to share the finished product with you ... in September(!)?
Spelling is complicated ... and easier than ever. Spell-check is a great tool, even if it's always correcting me, fixing my mistakes, and schooling me on the proper spelling of this word ... and that one.
But, despite its know-all application, I know it's not perfect.
Do the spell-check double check
Spell-check catches a lot, but a regular check on spell-check is good practice.
Proofread your writing
Your book, ebooks, essays, and emails could all use a good proofing before being shared.
Give your writing (no matter the format) a good review; eyeballs on each and every word.
Read your writing out loud
When you've got your final draft, read your writing out loud. It's one of the best ways to catch awkward phrases and confusing sentences.
This simple infographic was designed to help you visualize three words that spell-check, and your memory bank, might struggle with: their, they're, and there.
The first clue: they all start with the same three letters: t-h-e.
It's a good tip. Especially when you're trying to remember how to spell their. Is it "i" before "e"? Not this time.
Wondering if it's their or they're? Just remember their is possessive. The clue here is the possessive "i" tucked in there, just right of center.
What about they're? Break it apart and look at the two words it represents to get your answer: they're = they are. Is that what you're trying to say? It's a good tip for figuring out if it's its or it's, too. Separate the words and you'll know.
And finally, there. It, too, holds a clue, it's got the word "here" nestled comfortably inside itself. Remember that and you'll know if it's here or there where you want to be.
If you need help with words, let's exchange a few. Maybe I can help.
I write words, edit words, and arrange words, online and on paper. Helping you look like the professional you are.
Call 207-252-9757 today, or write.
p.s. I did the spell-check double check on this email and my fingers are crossed I didn't miss anything. But let me know if I did.
Much of my work revolves around words: arranging words, writing words, and editing words.
Last week I considered the word racism. And then the opposite, respect: to show regard or consideration for.
As I considered the words, I imagined editing them, replacing one with the other. Then illustrating the idea with red line editing; crossing out the unwanted word, writing in the new one.
Spell-check and track changes in word processing documents have replaced red line edits done by hand. A hand-drawn line through a word with a loop at the end indicates the word should be taken out. Removed. The arrow indicates what it should be replaced with.
If only it were that easy to edit and change behavior. To replace racism with respect and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter.
New work brings new perspective
I was struggling with how to write and present an article about maps. But nothing was working.
I was beginning to feel lost and frustrated, so I decided to go in a different direction. To combine my collage work and hand lettering.
When I finished, it occurred to me that in these days of the coronavirus we're all navigating new territory.
There's no map to tell us which way is the shortest, best solution to get us from here to there. But maps can still guide us:
Cartography and the days of the coronavirus
Map terminology as it applies to the challenges of staying home:
It's your internal guidance. If you pay attention to how you feel, you'll find your way. Getting tired? Maybe it's time to take a break. Frustrated? Take a left. Or right. Abandon course and do something different.
This is where you map your survival strategy. Maybe it's creating a routine: getting up at a reasonable hour, getting dressed, and saving your comfy clothes for later in the day.
Exercise. Because it helps. But does it fit better in the morning or afternoon?
Work. Begin and end when you normally would, if you can.
Meals. Keep it simple most days. But once in a while, make something different or special. Plan a three-course meal. Or a special dessert.
You've got a lifetime of experience, knowledge, and know-how. Make a list and run through things you've done, things you want to try, and things you miss.
You may not be able to go hiking, but you could plan hikes for the future. Explore documentaries about hiking. Journal or tell stories about the hikes you've completed. What do you remember? Waterfalls, wild animals, blisters ... the heat?
Not a hiker? Replace the word hiker with whatever suits you.
I resisted the urge to try something different. It took three attempts at failed experiments before I convinced myself to go with hand lettering for the illustrated article. It took more effort than I initially wanted to commit to, and I stumbled more than once along the way. But I'm glad I did it.
The project kept me occupied for quite some time and while I was doing it, that's all I thought about. (What a relief.) It's done, I've accomplished something, and that feels good.
I hope you're able to find things that bring a sense of calm and comfort. To stretch yourself when you don't want to. And I hope this helps.
I was in a lather ...
Sometimes it's easier to learn or remember something when there's an example to follow.
We're all watching the news about the spread of the coronavirus, and one piece of advice we're all hearing is, "Wash your hands." It's good advice, but it got me in a lather.
Why? I thought a few prompts might be helpful.
So what's a writer/graphic designer to do?
Make a poster. A public service announcement. This poster reminds us all to wash up ... with some key markers to make it routine throughout the day.
A Free Download!
Click on the poster to download and print the PDF.
Go big with an 11" x 17", or print it on a standard 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. Post it at home ... in the kitchen and bathroom. And in the office ... on doors, in the stairwell, the elevator, and in the loo.
Share this email with friends and family and soon enough, we'll all be in a lather.
I lost the bid on a job recently. A website redesign. I lost the job because I’m not familiar with the platform the site was built on.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out for either of us.
Not just because I didn’t get the job, but because the people who did get the job, while familiar with the platform, are not as familiar with best practices for web design or copywriting as they should be.
After looking at the new site, my disappointment at losing the job morphed into disappointment for my would-be client.
The copywriting on the new site is ineffective and the user experience is one of confusion and missed opportunity.
Here are two reminders and one takeaway from the experience.
Remember, it’s not all about you. At least not right away.
When a visitor comes to your website, they want to know if they are in the right place and they want to know if you can help them. As quickly as possible.
They're looking for the solution to a problem. They’re not interested in knowing how long you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. That’s important information, but information you can share later on.
It’s like when you cut your finger. You’ll grab anything to stop the bleeding: a napkin, a paper towel, or a clean hanky if someone hands one to you. Only later will you think about a proper bandage or the best antiseptic cream.
You need to tell visitors how you can help them. And you need to tell them right away.
2) User Experience
Is your site easy to navigate, is it interesting?
When people search for what you offer and find you, tell them what they want to know.
Do you sell products? Services?
Is it easy to figure out what you offer? Is it easy to place an order? To get in touch with you? Want people to join your mailing list? Make sure there's an incentive for them to sign up.
Remember, people have lots of options. Do you have resources on your site that add to the user experience? That make you stand out?
Consider blog posts, articles, and white papers where you can share your expertise and bolster your credibility—without sounding like you're bragging.
Having a site that's easy to navigate and chock-full of helpful information is the best way to convince someone you know what you're doing.
Team up with someone who knows what you don’t.
I was disappointed when I lost the account. Partnering with someone familiar with the preferred platform would have been the thing to do.
Do you need more tips to build a better website? Read this: