Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Rope of Words: a sneak preview

The golden valley only opened once a year and when it shut, only the tiniest chink remained.  She had to leave to travel the maze, but she was afraid of losing him, so she knitted a rope of words – all their favourites, linked together: heliotrope ~ nugget ~ putative ~ refractory ~ monger ~ wangle ~ farrier ~ ether ~ rive ~ reagent ~ expiate ~ spume  ~ cranny ~ sluice ~ erudite ~ calyx ~ bolt ~ hoarfrost ~ eidolon ~ bracken ~ kyrie...  He tied it around one of his ribs (precarious pressed tightly against skein) and gave her the other end to reel out as she walked. The title of their story was going to be, The Lovers Held Together By Words.

This weekend, I held the very first copy of the very first edition of my story, Rope of Words.

Lin Kerr (artist, lettering artist, and my mother) has been working on this as an art project since 2012, through screenprinting, watercolour painting, designing a new font, right through to hand-binding all 600 copies of this limited edition.

From the start of the project, she's been sharing her process on her website, Limetrees Studio - a scary thing to do, when you don't know how a project's going to turn out or how many cul-de-sacs it'll go down. I learnt a huge amount writing the story, and promised to write a series of equally honest blog posts about my own process and what I learnt at each stage. That'll be coming over the following weeks, but here's the nutshell:

I started writing the story in 2007; after half a page, I abandoned it to the dusty depths of the hard drive for three years; I returned to it in 2010 as an exercise and wrote most of it, plus a truly appalling ending; I let it simmer in the drawer for another two years, and finally finished it in 2012, to submit to the British Fantasy Society short story competition. By then, I'd already offered it to Lin to illustrate. On a family holiday in Dartmouth that August, she began working on the first illustration. On the same holiday, I heard that it had made the shortlist of three in the competition - and of course woke my mum up in the middle of the night to tell her! (It went on to win.) This is the first illustration, with a snippet of its accompanying text:

The completed book is a limited first edition (signed and numbered) with 13 illustrations, each copy handbound by the artist. (You can see more of the illustrations and buy the book on the Rope of Words website.) The book will make its official debut at Art in Action, Waterperry Gardens, but previewed at two smaller exhibitions this weekend - which meant we needed the actual physical copies, which weren't ready yet! The printers hand-finished the first ten on Friday evening at 5pm, and Lin and I met in a car park, like spies, to sign the first copies:

Every last detail of the book's artwork, cover, paper, fonts, and design has been so carefully and painstakingly considered and chosen. I feel incredibly privileged to have my story illustrated so wonderfully and made into such a thing of beauty - and very glad that I paid every bit as much attention to the words! The details of that process, and how I sailed straight into the rocks at every turn, are still to come; for now, you can admire the beauty of the finished thing on the Rope of Words site! And if you have a glass of bubbly handy, I hope you'll help me wet its head.

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