It’s My Job and I’ll Whine If I Want To.

This is how I read the Sunday paper (New York Times, of course):

That’s a lot of cat on my lap. Cindy is the black kitty near my heart and that’s Lickety on my knees. It’s been chilly here on the north shore of Long Island so I was happy to have these feline warmers in the vicinity.

Last week Dear Reader Jeanie asked about the “dummy” books I make up to show publishers when I submit a book proposal.

Normally I only do the first three chapters for a dummy but since this book is so short, I am doing the entire book (which ends up being about the same size as three chapters from one of my usual illustrated travelogues).

First, I go to Staples and spend about an hour and a half/two hours making the color copies of all the illustrations I’ll need for the dummy. I must warn you, before we go too far, that making a dummy is incredibly, maximally, and moronically boring.

After I have all the necessary color copies (at 69 cents per scan, the cost adds up fast) I go home and get the paper cutter out.

I must cut down a pile of bond paper into the appropriate dimensions of my book, known in the book biz as the “trim size”. For this book, I’m doing an 8-inch x 8-inch square trim. (Cutting paper is really boring.)

I assemble omymaterials: the color copies and the print-out the text of the book, which will also be scissored into bits:

I work at my dining room table because it’s the biggest surface in the house:

I am gluing bits of text and bits of illustration onto each page, so I have to let them dry out before I go onto the next step.

About two hours later, when I have gone thru my original manuscript page by page, and replicated each page, page by page (which is very boring to do), I will have bits of illustration and text left over. This is because I will have forgotten to make a color copy of something, or I have changed my mind about an illustration and I will re-do it, or there is an error in the text that I only discovered at this late stage of the operation:

So, I will paint something new, and I’ll sit at the computer and fix the text, and I’ll print it out, and I’ll go back to Staples to get new color copies, and then I’m ready to finish this dummy.

Thank the lord for clear plastic sheet protectors. I buy them by the 100s, and they are what makes my “dummy” books possible. For this dummy, I have cut off the top three inches of each sheet protector so so that my 8-inch x 8-inch pages fit into them like they were custom-made.

Next, I load my pages into the sheet protectors:

That’s the original manuscript above, and my “dummy” replica below.

You have to remember to load each sheet protector with two pages, back-to-back, so that they can assemble into a verso and a recto when it all comes together. This part of the operation is both fiddly and boring, but at least it means that I am near the end!!

When I cut down the sheet protectors, cutting off the top three inches, I was left with only two binder holes in each sheet protector. So now I have to punch a new upper hole into each sheet:

This dummy takes 41 plastic sheet protectors, and punching through that heavy plastic on the margin 41 times hurts. But I have to do this because I’m using a two-prong Duo-tang thingy to bind my dummy:

I have to fiddle with the prongs because they don’t exactly match the holes in my truncated sheet protectors, but that’s  not a big deal:

In the end, I have a neatly-bound dummy:

This is what the dummy looks like from a side view:

All in, each dummy costs approx. $30.00 and takes four hours to copy, print, and assemble. If I knew how to do this electronically, I would — but I’ve never figured out how to use my scanner. And, since making these dummy books is how I’ve gotten all my book contracts,  I’m not going to fix what ain’t broke.

And now let’s talk about The Wedding.

Harry and Meghan are a beautiful couple and everyone wishes them a lifetime of love and happiness, except, it seems, the bride’s siblings. Their lovely half-sister is about to “marry up” — way, way, WAY up — and they can’t stand it.

I know it’s crass to talk about class but that is the crux of this story. For the half-siblings (none of whom seem to have a job) the resentments must be long-standing, probably starting from the time when Meghan began to get some fame and money in her acting career. But now that she’s marrying the most famous prince in the world and leaving them far, far behind, the difference in their fates must be driving them crazy. Last I heard, one of them has even staged a car accident in order to get some publicity and sympathy.

I guess we all have embarrassing relatives — even the British royals have a Nazi or two in the family and the divine Kate Middleton has that nutty Uncle Gary.

Meghan and Harry seem to be gracefully handling the fall-out from Ms. Markle “getting above her raising” , as they say in Appalachia, and which I did the day I left Pennsylvania for Paris, so me and her we have that in common.

I think Meghan and Harry will be good to and for each other and I wish them a beautiful wedding day.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I hope it’s filled with pomp and circumstance and kitties on the lap and good cups of tea.


34 Comments, RSS

  1. Elizabeth Schmid May 18, 2018 @ 11:27 am

    Gosh you are industrious!
    Hooray for your lovely book.
    And hooray for the royal wedding which I will watch with great pleasure.
    Your cats know how to make themselves comfortable!

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:52 am

      My cats certainly do know how to make themselves at home wherever they feel, because they know that Top Cat and I were put on earth to let them do whatever they wanted to do.

  2. Casey May 18, 2018 @ 11:33 am

    Oooooooo…we get a peak inside the book and it’s gorgeous.

    If you wanted to watch me work, all you’d see is me putting papers from one file to another, making phone calls, writing up notes. Now THAT’s boring.

    Are you really tiny, or are your cats huge? Because there’s not much of you to go around when Lickety and Cindy settle in. Did you say you were on a diet?

    Yes, we all have embarrassing relatives and no, the embarrassing ones do’t know that they are the family embarrassment.

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:51 am

      Those two cats, Lickety and Cindy, are the heftiest cats in the herd. When my neighbors were newly moved into the house next door, and Lickety wandered over to say “Hi”, they were dumbstruck by him: he was the fattest cat they had ever seen. My vet told me to put him on a diet but with 7 other cats in the house, the likelihood of controlling Lickety’s access to food was nil. And he seems happy, so who am I to judge?

  3. jeanie May 18, 2018 @ 11:41 am

    Here, here! Hip, hip! And well done, you! Wow — thanks for showing that. It’s fascinating for me to see how that part of the publishing comes together. (You’re right about the scanner, of course, but I see what you mean about if it’s not broke!) The page protector concept is brilliant. I buy tons of those too (in fact, in petty corporate crime when I retired, I’m not quite sure how a box of them made it home with me. Must have got mixed up in the lunch bag. I decided it was payment for thousands of hours of unpaid overtime!). And you had to make HOW many of these? Well, I think they look great and any publisher who doesn’t scream, “Me! I want it!” doesn’t deserve the title.

    Up at the butt crack of dawn tomorrow to pop in the scones. We’ll watch all the festivities; chocolate dipped strawberries and madeleines made today, scone dough ready, tea and cups prepared. I think they’ve handled all the family stuff with great grace and I hope they can both be very happy. These two do good work; they deserve it. (And you’re right–the flack is all about class.)

    Thanks again for showing the process Vivian. Oh, and one other thing. Last week on CBS Sunday morning they visited the Physic Garden as part of a tea piece. Didn’t visit long but thought of you!

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:49 am

      Thank you, Jeanie, for that link to the Physic Garden piece. You have very sharp eyes — the visit lasted as long as a butterfly’s sneeze. The Physic Garden really is a delightful sort to have a cup, although these days it’s a very posh place and the days of homemade cakes and volunteer ladies pouring the tea are long, long gone.

  4. Snap May 18, 2018 @ 11:59 am

    Can’t wait for “Monet’s Garden” to be published and added to my Vivian Swift collection. I’m looking forward to getting up early to watch the M&H wedding and then a lazy Saturday with lots of naps with my kitties.

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:46 am

      I ust wandered over to Twisty Lane and saw you have Siamese cats! I’ve never had a Persian or a Siamese and now I want two of each.

  5. Becky May 18, 2018 @ 6:11 pm

    Can’t wait to watch the wedding. They are such a sweet couple.
    Thanks for sharing the dummy process. It was interesting and I had no idea of all the steps you had to take to put it together

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:43 am

      Making a duty book is a miserable, boring process and if there is any way that you can avoid doing it, I beseech you to avoid it at all costs, even if it means you have to learn a new computer program (the horror).

  6. ann May 18, 2018 @ 8:13 pm

    The Royal Wedding. It’s been quite a while since a big English celebration.

    The cats are great. They make my day.

    Thanks for sharing your dummy book.

    Let me know when I can purchase the real thing!

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:42 am

      Yes, you’re right ann, and now that Meghan and Harry are married, there’s not another big celebration on the horizon for many, many years. Fergie’s daughters don’t count.

  7. Leslie May 19, 2018 @ 4:45 am

    Dear Vivian, Your book looks delicious. I hope you’ve used the Vivian Swift font. As for sibling rivalry, it is incredible, yet it is the second oldest story of Judeo-Christian culture. A toast to Harry and Meghan: Health and Happiness!

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:41 am

      that’s amazing that you remember the Vivian font! But no, for this book I passed on it…it makes life easier (for me) to use good old Times New Roman, and ease its translation into every other language in the world.

  8. Kirra May 19, 2018 @ 9:05 am

    Love your process for creating the demo book!

    I think Harry and Meghan seem very happy and I wish them all the best. I heard a good point about her family recently – her mum is one of the only family members who hasn’t talked to the press and she’s the one going, not a coincidence!! Meghan’s a famous actress so probably used to some unpleasant media, even if this is rather epic royal level.

    Enjoy your cat blanket!

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:40 am

      The best thing about the cat blanket is the purring.

  9. monique May 19, 2018 @ 9:20 am

    A lot of creative and manual labor! Bravo..looks like it’s going to be on my shelf:)
    The bride looked stunning:) Just saw.Simply beautiful and elegant..and Harry was very handsome.Happy for them.She walked herself down the aisle and I say I loved that.

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:40 am

      Meghan’s solo walk down the aisle was my favorite part!

  10. Carol May 19, 2018 @ 9:34 am

    Looking forward to the new book! Thanks for sharing your process from painting to “dummy book”!

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:39 am

      Carol, it’s my pleasure to inform and inspire. Wait. Have I said too much?

  11. monique May 19, 2018 @ 9:48 am

    Just saw another video and Charles walked her down..wonder where the first news got their news….oh lala.

  12. Susan May 19, 2018 @ 7:42 pm

    Your book mock-up produces what publishers want. It works very well. The wedding was really special. The Brits know how to put on a ceremony. M & H make a lovely couple and they share many interests. M’s mother looked so happy and proud. Also, nice to see Prince C. walk with M’s mother as they left the church and stood for a photos. As you say, all families have an odd ball, M got more than her share. I hope she and her mother live happily ever after in the UK!

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:39 am

      Interesting idea, that Meghan Markel’s mother would pick up and move to the UK at her age. It’s rare to make such a drastic change, but then again, she would be near her only child and the eventual grandchildren. I’ve tried several times to become an ex-pat, but I miss the little things about America too much to ever leave it (the large-sized bags of Cheetos, efficient central heating, double-hung windows).

  13. mae May 20, 2018 @ 9:14 am

    Your book looks really beautiful! I got hooked on page-makeup software for simple things (like newsletters) when it was just being invented, but I suspect that your very original book designs might be hard to shoehorn into even the most modern programs. Not to mention a long learning curve.

    Did you enjoy the Royal Wedding?

    best… mae at

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:35 am

      I loved the wedding even more than I thought I would. Harry was so visibly nervous, waiting for his bride — it was touching and endearing.I think he was protective of Meghan having to walk down the aisle on her own, but she did it with supreme grace. The girl is a natural-born princess.

  14. Marg-o May 21, 2018 @ 7:59 am

    The wedding was perfect in every way and it’s obvious that the bride and groom are madly in love, it radiated thru the TV screen.

    I wouldn’t mind having a ton of cats on my lap either. But it must make turning the pages of your newspaper somewhat challenging.

    I agree with what everyone else has said, the book looks amazing. It looks very different from your other books! The art is taking center stage this time and you have chosen a great subject. Monsieur Monet would be proud to have his garden interpreted by you.

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:33 am

      I like the thought of M. Monet being gracious about my interpretation of his garden…but I’ve read that he was rather a cranky sort, so I would brace myself for withering criticism. In French!

  15. Yorkshire Pudding May 22, 2018 @ 10:52 am

    Thanks for the lesson in how to put a dummy book together. Clearly this is something that would be extremely challenging for a dummy to do. Here in England the Meghan and Harry event has crossed over into the world of celebrity nonsense. So many headlines about whether or not Meghan’s father would lead her down the aisle. Why couldn’t this odious fellow just keep his big mouth shut and perform his paternal duty with quiet pride?

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:26 am

      Hi Mr. Pudding! Then again, I think the sight of Mr. Markel in a morning suit would have been jarring, and would have brought down the tone of the affair. I mean, he’s the size and shape of a walrus.

  16. Marilyn May 22, 2018 @ 11:12 pm

    Glad Jeanie asked, I liked seeing your dummy book too. Loved the wedding too. I wasn’t sure I would watch or get into it, but it was so joyful and loving. What a refreshing change to what we see here in the news. I even had my tea and a couple scones for good measure.

    • Vivian May 24, 2018 @ 11:23 am

      Yes — the wedding was as restorative as a two week vacation way, way out of town.

  17. Marilyn May 24, 2018 @ 11:23 am

    I am answering your question here, since I can’t find another place to answer it.
    I have no idea about the spoon with honey in the tea, but I am guessing it is wise that you are removing it now. Sort of strange. I don’t ever put a spoon or sweetener in my tea, but maybe I need to do an experiment.

  18. Marilyn May 24, 2018 @ 1:16 pm

    Me again! I asked on a tea group about your honey spoon in tea. They said use a different spoon. Honey spoons are usually wood and it could be the reaction between the metal and the honey. They suggested using stainless steel and good quality.

  19. Ariane June 16, 2018 @ 1:30 pm

    Vivian, your Giverny book looks awsome. Bravo !

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