Category Archives: Books

the joy of POD books

Pen and watercolor illustrations for my next Blurb project.

The beauty of the software from the folks at Blurb is that you don’t have to know how to write code, or even have a background in layout design, to join in the immediate gratification of bookmaking. My experience with print production goes back to my early twenties, when I learned how to set type on keyboards that evolved into desktop publishing computers. Bottom line, I love typography and I love the process of assembling images and words into books. Eating Clean was my first formal bookmaking project, but that was in 2002, before the wide popularity of print-on-demand, not to mention digital book formats. There are no wholesale rates for the books made on Blurb, but if you’re not interested in the expense of inventory and relinquishing storage space to boxes of books-that-are-yet-unsold, the 1-by-1 pricing might just work for you. For now, that suits me just fine. I can keep playing and doing, which is where the joy in POD is for me.  Have you tried an online POD bookmaking service? Love to hear about it and hear your thoughts.

Joy Dance: 8 Hours Unplugged

I took a stand yesterday. It wasn’t comfortable but it was necessary. Patty Perfect — that would be my very lively inner critic —  was harping in my mind’s ear, but instead of giving in, I ignored her. In a single bold move to rescue my gasping-for-breath creativity, I barred myself from logging in to work-related email and gave myself the gift of time. What to do? Play with the oh-so-fun online bookmaking application, blurb, and my collection of Nantucket Island photos.

for doodles, dreams…
By Lisa Allen Lambert

I love writing, drawing or doodling on graph paper, so this was my paper of choice for the notebook’s blank pages. Eighteen summertime captures of favorite island nooks and krannies are staggered throughout 104 pages.

Time evaporated as eight hours flew by. Bliss reigned; I reviewed dozens of photo files, cropped, and tested selections. Utterly joyful.

The learning curve for Blurb’s bookmaking software is fairly  easy to overcome. There are lots of formatting choices: ebook, softcover, hardcover, hardcover with wrapped image book jacket. The menu of sizes has something for everyone. Curious? Click the graphic above and browse the results of my day.

January Bits

Corabelle's Stare-DownWe had an esteemed houseguest recently, but someone wasn’t pleased. Beware of the calico personality! Our visitor, Ann, is the author of the lighthearted-with-serious-subtext novel, On Maggie’s Watch. Ann makes me laugh more than almost anyone, but Corabelle fails to appreciate the humor. “How long is she staying?” she seemed to be asking.

Who's that?

snow porch

Before Cora’s patience was stretched to dangerous limits, Ann and I left for New Hampshire’s north country. The MFA winter residency  — a week-long gathering of students and faculty for workshops, readings and community — is always intense, and for me, a 24/7 responsibility. Ann’s on faculty; I work behind the scenes and help to keep things running on schedule. There was no time for outdoor exploration, but I managed to capture a few scenic shots from the hotel.

One of the unofficial perks of the job is that on occasion I am able to attend a writing craft workshop, as if I were still a student. Wiley Cash’s session on “place”  let loose a watershed of revision inspiration for that manuscript of mine that has been accumulating dust in the closet.

Now that I’ve had a week to catch up on post-event administrative tasks, it’s time to get back to my own projects. It feels great to be back. Happy New Year!

Domino Effect

yellow roses by Lisa Allen 2011This past week I completed an item that’s been hanging around my to-do list for a year: write a query letter for my memoir manuscript. After twelve months of procrastination I even surprised myself at how quickly the first draft came together. With feedback and suggestions from a circle of writerly friends incorporated, the final draft was good to go within a couple of days. But the unexpected bonus has been the jolt of energy that showed up on my doorstep once I crossed the long-suffering task off my list. I had no idea the drag on momentum that was caused by the ‘should do that’ message that had been running like a ticker tape through my mind. Every time I noticed the manuscript and copy of Thinking Like Your Editor  on top of the filing cabinet, there was that voice incurring a fresh rush of guilt and shame.

But once I had that first draft out of my head and on paper, I became unstoppable: picking fresh bouquets from the garden, snapping photos, cleaning the fridge (not very glam, I know, but the sparkly results are such a reward).  In fact, I felt I’d earned some additional blog browsing time. Here are some of my favorite virtual stops this past week:

  • the Purl Bee blog – visually delicious with fun, colorful fiber/fabric projects for all skill levels
  • Author Mary Johnson’s site – her book “An Unquenchable Thirst” is due out in August. In a prior life chapter, Mary was a nun and worked with Mother Theresa!
  •  An article about curating one’s interests online confirmed my interest in Pinterest and Etsy treasuries – even if it has to go on my backlist.
  • One of my daily favorites is from the Brooklyn-based Swiss designer, SwissMiss. She’s always got her eye out for innovative design; guaranteed her blog feed will make you smile.
  • Out of anyone in our knitting group, “Cora Brown” easily takes the title as Most Meticulous Crafter. This scarf had me swooning and wanting to make one of my own.
  • And last but not least, my pal over at My Fantastic Life has been entertaining me with photos and posts as she tackles a 30-day blogging challenge.

Color Magic

Valentine's Day Bouquet with Dad's PaintingI finished John Kralik’s memoir, 365 Thank You’s, shortly before Valentine’s Day, that holiday extravaganza during which visions of treats and surprises burrow in the imagination of yours truly, a girl raised on fairy tales. Especially after reading about Kralik’s quest to recognize opportunities for gratitude and express appreciation, I made a conscious effort to temper wild fantasies of tickets to the south of France. In all honesty, it’s not hard to appreciate my life as-it-is and to rein in my wanderlust, but I do admit to a dream of returning to a favorite part of the world that is a perfect blend of the French aesthetic and sun-kissed Mediterranean lifestyle. But back to reality … On February 14th my own Mr. Wonderful brought home this bouquet — a bounty of brilliant color that just happens to match one of my father’s paintings that hangs in our living room!

A close-up of one area of the painting:
I have yet to start my own 365 Thank Yous project —  it’s on The List — but in the meantime, I could not have been more tickled with my Valentine’s Day bouquet: I am grateful for a fresh look at dad’s painting, the brilliant happy colors of the flowers, and Mr. Wonderful’s deference to a romantic holiday.

Thoughts on the benefits of finding community

I can remember the moment and see it in my mind — we were gathered in front of the entrance to Robert Frost Hall (on the SNHU campus). Surrounded by other first-year MFA’ers and some of that year’s graduating students, I had the sense that I had found ‘my people’. I am not a joiner by nature; the recent rediscovery of an essay I wrote in high school on why people join groups confirms it. So this was a new feeling, this belonging. From the outside, we couldn’t have looked more varied and different. But what bound us was “something that all begins with the 26 letters of the alphabet”, to quote Nancy Werlin. Writing. What brought me there? I simply wanted to grow my skills, to challenge myself. But still, I qualified as a member.

Monthly gatherings around a dining room table with my writing group were at one time my only connection to other writers (and readers). But in the spirit of someone’s now-famous quote about baby steps, I have slowly added to that. I’ve become a contributing Friend of my local library and had the pleasure of meeting bestselling author Chris Bohjalian. As this year’s graduate assistant in the writing program, I have had the privilege of chatting personally with our visiting writers, Francine Prose and Ann Hood. And on the invitation of a classmate, yesterday I attended the WNBA-Boston chapter’s annual tea (that is, Women’s National Book Association) where award-winning writers Nancy Werlin (Young Adult author), Ona Buchanan (poet and concert pianist), and Katie Smith Milway (Young Adult/Children’s author) spoke. Not only were the surroundings of the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel elegant and the pastries exquisite, the room was filled with book-loving, word-hungry peeps!

Early in the afternoon, I had an opportunity for a one-on-one conversation with Nancy Werlin — can you tell that personal chats are my favorite? Hearing some of the backstory details of her novel, impossible, up-close-and-personal, I was inspired to purchase a copy of my own from Village Books, the event’s independent bookseller of choice. … And on a personal note, Village Books took home some copies of Eating Clean to put on their shelves and has asked if I would do an event at their store in 2010. Which is what inspired me to write this post in the first place … finding my community, getting out of my comfort zone of familiar routine and dress-down jeans and showing my support of others, helps keep my artist self buoyed and eligible for opportunities, too. It’s never comfortable at first, but I seem to return home inspired, invigorated, and freshly enthused to get down to work. Here’s wishing you a creative week! I’d love to hear how you’ve built your own community for inspiration and sense of belonging.

If I had a fireplace …

… I’d curl up in a big fat overstuffed armchair, with a pot of tea and a stack of books that have been waiting for me, and I’d read the afternoon away.

Books just finished:

The Impostor’s Daughter – A True Memoir by Laurie Sandell. This is the first ‘graphic novel’ I’ve ever read and I loooooooved it! Great story (yes, it’s really a memoir), wonderful drawings. A delicious read. I enjoyed it so much that I’ve subscribed to Laurie’s blog — she seems to lead quite the fun and happening author’s life down in the Big Apple.

Gringa by Melissa Hart. Another memoir – this one more traditional in format than Impostor’s Daughter. Engaging young female voice and story of a family divided (I’m not going to give anything away here). Thoroughly enjoyed this one. Because I am writing my own memoir, with the story confined to six of my teen-aged years, I am scarfing up any and all memoirs told with a young voice. I particularly like an uplifting finish and am pleased to say that Gringa did not disappoint me.

Mid-read:

Francine Prose‘s Reading Like a Writer. Required for school, however I enthusiastically recommend it to both writers and avid readers. With thoughtful care, Francine evaluates selected words, sentences, paragraphs, etc., of the literature she considers to be the best. After revisiting through her lens, some pieces that I read long ago, I am afraid that I have sped through way too many novels and short stories without allowing myself adequate time to ponder and fully appreciate well-written work on a cellular level. I love  her list of “Books to Be Read Immediately”, found at the back of the book. It is as though she wants to share the joy and bring the reader along with her. … Francine was our visiting author this past summer at SNHU. She is terrifically smart and funny and I felt honored to spend time with her.  Now that her book about Anne Frank is out, I am adding it to my memoir reading list. Her capacity for analysis and articulation of her insights amazes me.

I seem to be hanging out in the memoir section of the library and book store these days; I wonder if you have any you’d like to recommend?