Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cover Story

However long I wind up staying in this business of book-making, I am sure the anecdote of how *Once* got its cover will remain one of my favourites. And not even only because the book ended up looking exactly how I had dreamed it would. I really like how the cover came about from a bunch of different cool people being creative together. Most of the time, the actual writing of anything is pretty anecdote-free: “And then I worked constantly on the story for seven weeks, and it still turned out sort of incoherent, so then I rewrote it again”—not really an anecdote. Quite often I’m having a good time on my own (I wouldn’t do it otherwise) but there’s rarely anything to report other than when my computer crashes. It’s only when you are working with other people that things, in my opinion, get interesting.

So for a long time I had a quite distinct vision of the the cover image I wanted, but I didn't say anything about it because the author doesn't necessarily get to--it depends on everybody's process at the publishing house, time, patience, etc. Actually, when Dan Wells from Biblioasis did ask me, at a launch for another book, what I wanted for the cover, I was so startled I said I didn't know! Later, of course, I retracted this and said I wanted a photo of people sitting on a bus, each person alone and not making eye-contact with the camera, staring out windows or reading, muffled by winter clothes.

Sound familiar?

Dan said that sounded good (I was thrilled!) and promised to look for stock images for me. Later, I think it occurred to both of us that maybe lonely cold people on busses don't so much like having their pictures taken, and that these images might turn out to be hard to find...

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, I was spending the day writing with my friend Emily (a fine writer and artist, with no web presence, sadly). On the way home, we were sitting in the subway station and to pass the time she pulled out a stack of slightly imperfect linocut prints her artist-friend Marta Chudolinska had been on the verge of throwing out. Em and I were both rather stunned at what passes for imperfect with some people--they were all haunting lovely images of bedrooms and dreams and...people on a bus.

"That's my cover!" I think I said rather loudly.. Emily was happy for me to have found something I wanted so much, even though she was sorry that I was taking away her picture (I did eventually return it). This was just a few days before the Panel in Peterborough, which is actually the only time I've been in the same room as both Dan and John Metcalf, who edited *Once*. I was *dying* to show them Marta's image, sure it was perfect, yet *I* don't make covers, so what do I know about finding the ideal image to start with. It's a long way from linocut to finished cover layout, but Dan said he thought he could do it and both him and John the image was pretty damn good.

And then, a couple weeks later, I had this gorgeous cover, which I can't show you right now because Blogger is being difficult. There's a tiny version is over at right, if I haven't already shown it to you 12 000 times. Which is a good indication of my level of involvement in this whole process. I have no idea how Marta took the idea into linocut form, or how Dan took the linocut into book-cover form, so this story is missing some key chunks. I just think it's pretty amazing that I get to play on the team at all, and I wanted to share.

Set my body free

No comments: