This is my Damn France Book in progress: a file folder for each chapter plus a few more for misc. notes about France and travel and publisher business stuff that I need to keep track of. My spiffy Reebok shoe box lets me keep all that flotsam in one, portable place.
The publisher wants to keep the page count of TDFB to 208 (for production and price-point reasons), so I’ve decided to go with the same 9-inch by 8-inch page format that I used in When Wanderers Cease to Roam. that’s why I’ve trimmed all my 208 pages into a camera-ready 8 1/2-inch by 7 1/2-inch size and I’ve put each trimmed sheet into a plastic sleeve, (which will protect the art work while I fiddle with the lay-out and final text) and then the whole shebang goes into a big fat three-ring binder (which will allow me to re-arrange pages easily if I have to, and at this point in the book-design-and-writin’ process happens frequently). All this is necessary because you have to submit your manuscript, whether it’s a novel or an illustrated art journal, in loose pages.
This week I’ve been working on the Normandy chapter (green folder, because Normandy is a very lush, green province) and today the WIP is opened to the pages where Top Cat and I are taking leave of Omaha Beach and catching a train to a little town called Pontorson:
This is how I block out art work and text. Now that I’ve spent over a year outlining the book’s arc, deciding which stories can stay in the narrative and which ones I have to sacrifice (for clarity, focus, and length), and have figured out which part of the narrative needs illustrations, and then I’ve dug through my diary notes and sketches and photographs to find the images that I need (sometimes, though, there is an image that I just love too much that I have to find a way to keep, no matter how relevant or not to my narrative…are you still with me?) any way: after all that, then I have to block out my book page by page. Like I’m doing here:
This is the verso page of the above mishagoss. I made these sketches while Top Cat and I were having tea at the D-Day House (top) near Omaha Beach. The fact that there was a bar-restaurant called D-Day House in the town down the road from Omaha Beach, and one called L’Omaha across the street…priceless. Well, I knew that they had to go in any art journal memoir that I was going to write about France.
So here they are, on a page where I don’t have any plans to discuss our tea time at D-Day House; this is one of those times when I can let the illustration stand for itself while I use the page space to recount a thought-provoking conversation Top Cat and I had with some tourists in the American Cemetery on Omaha Beach where Lourdes and Jim Morrison’s tomb in Paris were mentioned as close runners-up to the 9,234 graves here. It was one of those conversations that make you wonder why some people don’t just stay the hell home.
It’s important to me that each page of my book have a chocolate-box look to it (visual variety), so I am very conscious of using text in a way that doles out the narrative in tasty, bite-sized bits. That’s why I break up the page with illustrations and I use scraps of paper to block out where the text will go. And then I either write from scratch or I edit my previous drafts in order to conform with my page design.
This is what I do for every page. Every single page. And then I make sure that all the pages together have a flow — a natural movement and change of pace where necessary– within each chapter, and then I check that the chapters add up to a well-orchestrated book.
I used to wonder why it takes me three years to write anbo art journal. I think I just answered my question.
Speaking of questions: Mindy asked me, about those street scenes from my last post, whether I copy or scan my drawings to get so many identical copies to work from. Thank you so much, Mindy, for thinking I am hip enough to be digital. The sad truth is that I am so nervous about keeping a record of every illustration which I have seated blood over that I go down to the UPS stor half a mile away and make photocopies of everything I draw. That way, if my house should burn down, I could recreate my manuscript from scratch from the duplicate files I have locked in the car trunk (because what are the chances that your house will burn down AND your car will be stolen??).
This kind of redundancy is especially handy if you are, like me, the kind of person who has to take some practise sessions with an illustration if it involves some tricky new effect. Which is basically ALL my illustrations. Here’s the latest on that street scene from Monday:
Yes, I cropped it like this. And this is how I think I want to feature it on a page – (with some Triscuits on the side). But then again, maybe it would look better like this:
So I think I have to go ONE MORE ROUND with this picture, to get the stone walls the right color grey,and to fiddle with the light coming out of the shop windows, and to get somebody for reals to pose for me (as me and Top Cat) so I can draw those two people walking away from life rather than from memory.
Even I know that’s a ridiculous amount of time to spend on such a tiny picture, but Top Cat and I had such a romantic walk down that street…it’s another one of those pictures that I have to have in my Damn France Book. And heck: there’s an illustration in my Paris chapter that I had to paint 22 times before I got it Good Enough. And it’s still not that good.
Would you like to be in my book?
To make a point about the truth of travel (did I mention that my Damn France Book is as much about the truth of travel as it is about the art of it?) I need to tell some travel horror stories in Chapter Five. Short stories ,about 50 – 100 words long, maybe longer if it’s a really great horror story, like getting the plague or kidnapped by pirates on the Indian Ocean.
But I’m mostly interested in the usual calamities: a trip-ending fight with your traveling partner, a broken leg doing some kind of stupid tourist manoeuvre, being stranded in some hell hole because of bad weather or chicanery, running out of money and eating garbage, etc. Did you ever have a melt-down moment on the road? Or a dose of Tourist Rage, where you vowed you would NEVER set FOOT in THAT place AGAIN?
I would like to hear about the worst thing that’s ever happened to you on vacation, on a road trip, on a business trip, or on a honeymoon. And if I use your story in my book it will be fully attributed and your name will be highlighted in my Grateful Acknowledgments. And I’ll ask you to choose an original watercolor from the book for keeps.
You can either write about your disaster here in the Comments section, where we can all enjoy them…and believe me, we all will. Hey — we’re only human. We likes to hear about other peoples’ train wrecks.
Or, if you are shy, please email me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m hoping you all have had truly miserable experiences. And I mean that in the nicest way.