Saturday, July 11, 2020

Designers think differently

It's been awhile since any of us posted on this blog —painting, writing, children, grandchildren, school visits, house projects — but this is the kind of thing we USED to post about, and it doesn't really fit with my new blog

When I was writing and printing (PRINTING, not publishing  — there's a big difference!) a cookbook for friends,  I wanted a nice cover for it. My friend Lolly had done beautiful paintings of the vegetables, fruit, and fish the book featured.

First, I designed the cover myself, but it looked more home-made than Lolly's paintings deserved. So I asked my friend KC Witherell to design a cover, and she came up with this. I was amazed at what a difference her changes made — and thought the cover was done. 

But she, a professional designer, wasn't satisfied. As she wrote, 

"I hope it’s not TOOOOOO late. Here’s the cover, centered on 8.5 x 10, with the left hand margin the way the New Yorker does it…so that the thickness of the issue never changed the width of the art area…. This way, the spiral binding will not bite (visually) into the white background of the cover. Of the two, I like the one with the tiny flower replacing the ampersand best. I like the whole look of it and the balance, not just the flower.

Meanwhile, the extra reason I hope its not too late is that when I looked at the cover type I sent, it was in really shitty shape. It was poorly spaced (unaddressed software issue) and had gotten slightly distorted."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Betting on the right horse


Lately I've been writing book proposals for other people, and when one went out, two publishers responded right away. One offered a decent advance; the other wanted the book, but didn't want to pay for it.

 "I've never sold a book for nothing," the agent wrote.

 The editor was indignant; wanted the book and whined about uncertainty. The agent said that acquiring mss. ought not to be going for certainty (buying mss. that are like other best-selling books etc.) but "betting on the right horse."

 I love that idea! And not just because it reminds me of John Steinbeck saying,

"Publishing makes horse-racing look like a stable, secure business."

Betting on the right horse is a good way to think about my own books, too -- though for me it's like owning a horse as well as betting on one. If you muck out the stalls etc. yourself, owning a horse is a lot of work. And so is writing a book. You have to really love the creature to make all that work worthwhile, whether it wins the race or not.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Other Meghan McCarthys

I was trying to explain to Libby what the deal was with the "other Meghans." I figure posting this will explain the whole thing!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Paintings from Chapter two: Emma

Here are a few of my favorite paintings from the second chapter of Sprout Street Neighbors (some chapter one paintings here), featuring a rambunctious squirrel named Emma:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014



Yes, that is Drew Barrymore -- the picture was taken on the steps of my building in Boston, while they were filming Feverpitch.  The pink hat is mine, but I (wisely, I think) cropped myself out of the picture. Ordinary people rarely come off well when photographed with celebrities -- especially when the celebrities are young, beautiful movie stars.

I asked her to pose with it thinking it might be a good ad for the book -- of course, it wasn't!

That was predictable. But other things about what will grab people's attention aren't predictable at all. Of all the things I ever posted here, the one about my shepherd's hut was read the most (4,000 and something times).

That wasn't even meant to be anything but fun for me to write about and interesting to my friends. And when it comes to other people's posts, there's no pattern either: what people read most and what they didn't seems completely random (and NOT related to even what readers said were their favorites, in the days when we asked).

The most visited posts on this blog were (in this order): Elaine's about Valerie worth's  animal poems, that shepherd's hut post of mine, Grace's moon craft festival post (about how to make a lantern for a moon festival), Alvina's Day in the Life of an Editor, and a sneak peek of Anna's sketch of a girl.

Who would ever have guessed that? I think the lesson when it comes to writing (whether a book or a blog post!)  is to just write what interests YOU.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Paintings from Sprout Street Neighbors

Here are a few of my favorites from the first chapter of Sprout Street Neighbors, the chapter book I've been working on. It's been a lot of fun painting without color, it sort of frees me up to think more about the values, textures, and patterns in a painting. I like spending time in this cozy black and white world.