Thursday, 19 January 2012

Tough week ...

... dealing with mental health issues. On the plus side, I had a great evening with Helen Rickerby, confronting InDesign. Haven't completed a page all week, but I did a preliminary design for the cover of the print book (thanks Helen) and had a recce at PrintStop to see how much it was going to cost to print. Ridiculously manageable.

And, thanks to having sent out some submissions earlier this month when I was in an energetic getting-things-done phase, I have 3 poems in Shotglass Journal #6, on an internet near you soon.

Back to the Bach Remedies, and normal service will be resumed in due course.

Learning stuff

Bum. Turns out gel pens aren't waterproof. I wrote over the text of my blue poem, as planned, and it looked awesome. Then I moved on to the next poem page overleaf. The painted surface needed touching up, and I managed to find the right colour amongst my collection of test pots (Resene Moulin Rouge), but I was careless (what's new) and let it go over the edge to the previous page. No biggie - it's quite hard not to do that - and I knew I just needed to dab at it with a wet cloth to lift it off while it was still wet. And I figured that it added to the texture of the page's backgound anyway. Unfortunately, the wetness spread to the gel text and smudged it rather badly.

I patted at the smudgy blue with a dry Chux and that prevented it from spreading too badly, but then of course the writing was faded and a bit blurred, so I had to go over the affected parts again. Interesting effect: now the text has different intensities of blue, which I quite like!

I've added a page warning at the top that the page isn't waterproof. It seemed sensible. I thought about spraying it with a fixative, but the one I have is meant for charcoal and pastels and I don't have a sample of the appropriate surface that I can test it on. So I'll just leave it be, I think.

Tomorrow I'm going out in the afternoon, so work will be interrupted. I'll try and get back into it in the evening, but Friday night's got some good tele, so I might not get back to it until Saturday. The weather forecast for the weekend is a bit scrappy, so I won't mind being inside.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

It's Tuesday again already

Not putting up a Tuesday Poem. That way madness lies. I didn't manage to do anything on The Book yesterday. Wal came home (yippee!), we went to a family barbecue at Otari Gardens, and the grandchildren and their Auntie Julia came back here afterwards. Julia always says she's lame for hanging out at her parents' house at her age (35 in a few weeks), but it doesn't stop her from coming here and watching TV. She doesn't have one of her own. So last night I experienced the full joy of open plan living. Sitting in my little computer space I could hear Wally and Julia talking in the Great Room while he cut up 2 legs of pork for the freezer and she nominally watched a "boring" film on the tele. Above me on the mezzanine Sylvia (21) and Nina (11) played a game that involved a lot of toy smurfs and earachingly high squeaky voices arguing about who was the prettiest. Somewhere off in the distance, Kyle (19 - he's with Sylvia) and Zac (14) were deep in discussion about Assassins' Creed. I loved it, but it wasn't conducive to creative endeavours.

Today, on the other hand, I managed to get some work done. I printed out a photo on tissue paper (getting good at it!) and made a transparency of a poem printed in blue. Wasn't such a great success - the blue wasn't dark enough to overcome the slight opaqueness the gel medium imposes. I've stuck it in the book anyway, and will carefully write over it with a very fine gel pen, so I can keep it blue. It'll sort of look handwritten, but the lines will be straight and I'll keep within the margins, LOL.

Tomorrow's poem page is a bit of a bugger. It's painted red, but that hasn't covered the original printing on the page, so I'll have to find a way to work with it that covers the print but still allows the red to predominate. Will sleep on it.

Changed my mind - here's my Tuesday Poem. It's about the photo I printed on tissue paper.

Family Snapshot

There are three smiling faces:

Jennifer half-turned on her stool;
Ursula with her arm raised –
a reflex response to the camera;
Marilyn Monroe completes the scene,
confident of her place on the wall.

Jennifer’s red shawl apes
the apple print on her wallpaper,
a blue skirt reflects the sky of her eyes
and a green sash flashes in the middle,
matching spider plants and the windowsills.

Ursula is in traditional pink and white –
the colours of two-year-old girls –
out of place in a teenage boudoir
but hanging out with her sister
in velvet sneakers.

Sylvia has yet to come into focus,
still developing under my diaphragm,
and Julia is out of shot, a negative space.
Neither toddler nor teen,
Julia could be anywhere she chooses.

Instead she takes whatever she wants,
at night raiding the pantry,
that dark room that supplies our needs.
In a few years she will leave, after a blow-up
from which we believe we will never recover.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Three days and one page later ...

It took me Friday and most of the weekend to get the next page done. In the end, it looks deceptively simple, probably because I hit so many dead ends on the way. Paraphrasing Thomas Edison, I now know of many ways not to print on tissue paper. In the end I figured it out and I've written it down so I can do it again, should I feel so inclined.

Another good outcome is that I mastered the art of creating photographic transfers using acrylic gel medium. It's not photo perfect, but it does make a great, largely transparent, image, and I've managed to reproduce a wedding photo for the next poem.

Wally's home some time tonight (1.30am, if past experience is anything to go by) and normal life will resume. I'm pleased with how the book is shaping up, if not with how long it's going to take. But this is my major project for this year. It's going to mean turning down some other opportunities and ignoring some of the other things I was trying to do last year. I've realised (and accepted) that I'm really bad at multi-tasking. If I have too much to do I get overwhelmed and don't do anything. So I'm dropping everything non-essential in favour of working on the books.

Easy to say when the year is in its infancy and hasn't really revved up yet.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

so slow...

OMG. I had all day (other than 2 hours when I went out for a haircut - lookin' good!) and still got only one page completed. Took ages to find and register online for some free stock images when I couldn't find what I wanted amongst my own photos; then the materials I was using wouldn't behave (well, didn't do what I was wanting and expecting); I spent ages with the hairdryer trying to speed things up; and then my gloss medium dried sticky and I had to create a non-stick barrier between pages that looked like it was exactly how I'd planned it. Oh, the artistic obstacles! (Puts back of hand to brow and sighs faintly but long-sufferingly.)

I really enjoyed the whole process. It's been so long since I've allowed myself to spend some actual time on art that I'd forgotten how caught up in it all I can get. Usually I'm looking for a quick fix, but today I was thorough, and the one page I completed is simple but effective, and I like how it turned out in the end. And I did get tomorrow's page started, if you can call 5 attempts at printing a poem out on several variations of an image without any of them working, a start.

Our giant dining table, for which I waited so long to bring home from my late parents' house, has disappeared beneath boxes of materials: stickers, paints, felt pens, stamps, scrapbooking paper, construction paper, tissue paper, hand-made paper, magazines, crayons, calligraphy pens, Sharpies, stencils, feathers, oil sticks, buttons, and art books. And it's not even the table I'm working on.

It feels awesome.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

More progress

What a great day I had - up early-ish for a 3km run, and it wasn't raining. Did 4 hours' work answering emails and adding competitions and submission opportunities to the website while it rained. Sent some submissions to the Cha (Asian literary journal) 'Encounters' poetry competition. The last 2 sentences have a definite cause and effect relationship.

Did an hour on The Book - 2 more pages done. Spent some time in the garden after it stopped raining again. Did all the necessary reference checks and offered our empty apartment to the couple who really wanted it (yayy! Rent again). Talked to my Auckland phone buddy for half an hour. Watched last Thursday night's 'Chuck', as I forgot it was on last week.

Put like that, it doesn't seem like as much as it felt, but the time whizzed by and I felt like I had a productive and creative day. Thanks, Jen, for reminding me about Bach Flower Remedies - they've really helped me focus.

Sylvia's boyfriend arrived from Tauranga to stay with us for a couple of weeks. Having them in the house added a small portion of my daily conversational needs, before they went out to visit some friends.

I don't normally do a Tuesday Poem (Tuesdays come around far too often for me to keep up), but just because I feel like it, here's the poem I collaged and illustrated in The Book today:

Life is a Grocery Store

My father was a general manager,
stock-controller, check-out man –
a holistic server of people’s needs.

My mother cut cheese, bagged flour
and weighed onions –
maintenance tasks out the back.

Sometimes Mum filled in at the counter,
protecting the till while Dad
made weekly deliveries.

The Grocer had a car.

In Newtown everyone knew
everyone else – and their business:
“The Grocers have another daughter”
(The Queen has had another son).

Feelings were kept on the top shelf
where children couldn’t reach them.

First published in the whole wide world ed. Vivienne Jepson, The NZ Poetry Society, Wgtn, 2000. (That singleton line in the middle is supposed to be offset to the right, but I can't figure out how to make it behave.)

Tomorrow's my writing day, so I'll get 4 hours (or more, if it's going well and the garden is too wet to get into) of working on The Book. Gotta ramp up the production speed.

Monday, 9 January 2012


Even though I started work again today, I managed an hour on the collection. I added one poem to Book 1, and then spent ages trying to get just the right photo (without the flash distorting it) of the image I'm using for the "Family" section title page. I'm not confident with editing photos on the computer (beyond cropping and resizing), so I guess it's all part of the learning curve. By the time I get to Book 7 I'll be a whiz. I hope I can keep it up, I really do. I'm trying to make it fun, and not all learning curves, but I'm also experienced enough to know that art can be frustrating. I simply remind myself that any creative project looks like the remains of Scarlett's breakfast (ie after puking but before eating it again) in the middle of the creative process. Been there, done that, know I can get out of the dip.

Can't believe how much I've got done today overall. Only 6 more sleeps before Wally comes back from hunting, takes over the bed and requires feeding. I like days that aren't interrupted by meals.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Forgive me internet, for I have sinned. It's been 6 months since my last blog post.

Inspired by watching 'Julie & Julia' on tele tonight, I am thinking maybe I'll make a record of my attempt to publish my poetry collection. I missed the December deadline, of course, else why would I need to such a prompt? I could excuse myself by claiming it's because I had to pick up production of the NZPS anthology after the poor editor had a seemingly endless series of obstacles, but to be fair I didn't have to do that until October. I was well past the point of no return in my lack of application to the collection by then. No, all I can do is sigh and quote from the January 1st page of my Forbes Success Calendar (now several years old, and being scrolled through again as I hate to waste a good thing): "The gist of New Year's day is: try again." (Attributed to Frank Crane, though I saw it somewhere else recently, with a different credit - can't remember who.)

Anyway, I'm up to Day 1008 of my weight loss programme, which, though slowing down as I near my goal weight, has been remarkably successful and aided significantly by my conscientiously recording the details every day, so surely the same principle should work for publishing. Today I sent out a submission of 3 poems to Shot Glass Journal. They are all poems that will be in the collection, so I thought I'd give them a go before they are published and go out of circulation.

So, where am I up to? The first draft has been gone through quite thoroughly by the wonderfully kind Kerry Popplewell. She was one of my English lecturers at Vic a zillion years ago and when I asked her to cast her experienced eye over the ms. she replied that it was like asking Walt Whitman to comment on Emily Dickinson. In any event, she generously made annotations on the poems and offered many suggestions for improving them. I've followed many of her suggestions, and I'm grateful that some of the poems have ended up much tighter as a result. The ones she wanted change in that I couldn't see a way round, I've dropped altogether, so it's a bit shorter as well.

I have almost finished the preparation stage (ie ripping, glueing and gesso'ing) for 7 altered books in which I will hand-write and illustrate the collection. Most of the gesso job took place during the Rugby World Cup, as I watched every game and was sitting around a lot.

I've printed out the poems and arranged the pages in the first book, which now has a title page, publishing details and the Contents. The printed out pages were just to see how they fitted in the available space in the book, and to show me where I needed to do fancy tricks like adding pages and inserting boxes and that sort of thing.

I have an ISBN number, which is actually surprisingly exciting, and a definite push to get a move on. When you apply for your number the form asks you for a projected publishing date, and I put March, so that's another little incentive.

I've registered at PrintStop, which has a fantastic self-publishing system of templates and limited run printing at ridiculously reasonable cost, so I can get the printed copies done at any time. What's holding me up is my total inability to work out how to design a cover. The template required is in InDesign, my arch-nemesis. I'm going to need help.

So that's where I'm up to. If I want to post a little something each night before bedtime, I'm going to have to do a little bit on the books each day, aren't I. Baby steps; I'm good at those.