Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book publishing

Book production was how I started in publishing in 1979. In those days everything happened on paper - manuscript typing, copyediting, proofreading, cover review - and the resultant pile of "foul" manuscript and multiple stages of proof at the end of the process required boxes and boxes for the year of storage required after publication. Those huge medical textbooks ate up an immense amount of paper, and my job was to push all of it through the various states of production, which often took a year or more. Revised editions were especially quaint. The authors were sent a copy of the book that had been disassembled, each book page (or each page column for the large-format books) pasted on a sheet of colored paper, usually green as I recall, and the whole mess stamped with new page numbers (there was a little machine). This method provided margins on which to hand-write corrections and mark deletions. We would require the author to type any major updates of more than a sentence of two on separate sheets.

I now have my own book (Owls Head Revisited) in production. I wrote it on a computer, of course, and printed it out just once, for ease of a last, major revision. (As far as I can tell, my publisher has printed the manuscript just once as well.) From then on, everything happened by email: book proposal, contract, proofs. And once in production, so fast! I received the first cover version on May 17, the first text proofs on June 8, and the end of the month will see the first printed copies. I expect that wonderful moment of holding a brand-new book in your hand (even if it was Acid-Base Disorders: Basic Concepts and Clinical Management) will be exactly the same as 35 years ago, just slightly heightened by the terror of sending your own words into the world. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The purple season

This is the marvelous time of year in Maine when purple flowers amass.

In friendly competition for kingly glory are the lilac and the lupine, untended and free. The lilac bush stands 10 or 15 feet high and often matches that in width. You can't get the sight of them out of your eyes, nor the smell from your nose. The other day I smelled lilac even on Beech Hill, hundreds of feet in the air, no bush for a mile that I could see.

Lupine effortlessly carpets fields along the highway, in front of a house. They propagate underground, and the one we planted last year in the oceanside garden has quadrupled in size and will take over from iris and phlox and lily if we let it. Like the lilac, it presents sometimes in white. Unlike the lilac, it stoops to red and pink.

Such royal vigor in a difficult climate!

A little tamer, that is, more cultivated, the rhododendron in these parts stays closer to house than roams in the wild. Warmer places like New Hampshire and Massachusetts and Ohio show them off en masse. And here the purple is rarer, the flowers tending to pink and white.

Very tame indeed are the irises just now bursting from those tight buds. Gorgeous, of course, but dependent on human hands to weed and feed.

Then there are the vestiges of purple infusing the beach rose, wild geranium, clover.

I feel like a prince among leaves.