creative therapeutic writing

The Long Journey to Publication: one train ride at a time

title-page

What I love about this book is that it makes something positive out of the darkness that is depression. Monica Suswin writes movingly about how writing can make sense of mental illness. With characteristic generosity of spirit, she gives you the steps to give shape to your experience.

Rachel Kelly, bestselling author of Black Rainbow:
how words healed me – my journey through depression

EAST GRINSTEAD TO LONDON VICTORIA
Notebook: 14th June 2016
I had an ‘aha’ moment in the early summer on the train to London. I was mapping out my chapters and thoughts about self-publishing; perhaps my book would divide neatly into two books, not one as I’d always thought. Then a flash came: why not four?

Quickly I rejigged my thirteen chapters into four distinct themes. The mental illness writing, which had stretched to three chapters, would lift out and be the first mini-book; the second would be about love and loss. Those were the two big themes I’d written about. The third would tackle relationships within the family and in friendships. Certainly another big theme. And the fourth would cover writing companionship, spirituality and the hidden aspects of the psyche. Four mini-books of around 25,000 words each – half the length of a short book. Edited extracts have already appeared in these blogs but the books will put them into greater context with suggestions for reflective writing that readers can explore for themselves.

Since then everything has fallen into place: my editor, copy editor and proof reader.  One of my workshop participants, with 25 years of experience in printing, advised me on terminology and stages. I commissioned an author photograph. At a book launch of Annette Boehm’s The Knowledge Weapon, I liked her poems and book cover so much that it led me to the same printers: Short Run Press in Exeter.

CLAPHAM JUNCTION TO EXETER  
Notebook: 4th October 2016
My iPad and keyboard are on the table; I’m typing while the fields and trees whizz past the window.

A buzzy meeting at Short Run Press. Mark Couch, one of the directors, talks me through paper quality, sizes in centimetres – though I am still an inch person – and matt and glossy cover finishes. He introduces me to Paul, the font man; we chat curlicued tails, squiggles, point spacing.

When it comes to the cover design, I’m told I can return and sit next to Paul as he takes me through gradations of colour and the size of the lettering on his screen. His computer will give more precise variation than my Pages or Word programmes. I’m far more involved in this process than I imagine any publisher would allow me. Far better a face-to-face meeting than exchanges screen-to-screen.

Downstairs Mark shows me around the clattering machines which fold large sections of paper into 16, produce colour, notch and cut edges, glue, and sew up seams. I expect to smell rubber when I see the huge cutting blades and the enclosed machine measuring out steaming hot glue. As a child I used to visit my father’s factory, which made outdoor clothing. I remember the smell of rubber solution used to waterproof the seams of garments and the installation of a new machine with a similar pattern-cutting blade to slice through thick layers of material, much like the pile of paper waiting to be cut through to size.

I ask Mark how much space 500 copies will take. He gets his tape measure out to gauge the probable width of the book’s spine and says ten boxes. I’ve heard of authors storing their books under the bed. This doesn’t appeal: I’ve got the material out of my head onto paper and screen, then into a book format. That’s the last place I want them to end up whilst I sleep. I want my books to find their way onto bookshelves and bed-side tables. Out there in the world.

FONTS & TYPESETTING
Fonderie (Old French), the modern French word fondre and the English word foundry all have their derivation in the meaning: to melt or cast in metal. (OED)

Lettering, like language, has evolved over millennia. We are indebted to our human need to communicate. Archaeological evidence has unearthed graffiti on walls, the ancient world used hieroglyphics, sharp tools incised into stone, scratched into wax tablets. In medieval times monks used a quill pen and ink on parchment made from animal skins.

The sixteenth century invention of the printing press with movable letters cast in metal revolutionised how the written word was reproduced. Now in our age of electronic screens, every one of us with a computer screen has a pre-loaded choice of fonts: the lettering we use at our finger tips as we type.

My natural inclination is to the clear lines of sans serif: lettering without additional curves or marks added to the main body of the letter. I know I must be discerning with the choice of font but I have no experience in knowing what will be suitable for a book in the hand. At Short Run Press, Paul advises me and we pair up two fonts: serif and sans serif.

The main text uses Sabon, named after a sixteenth century print maker: Jacques Sabon from Frankfurt. This serif font was developed in the 1960s with a careful balance of weights for up and down strokes and finely detailed curves and tags to the main body of the letter. Jan Tischold, a German typographer, was a moderniser of classical fonts and had a big impact on British book design after the Second World War. His aim was clarity above beauty; Sabon is considered one of the most readable of book fonts, helping the eye move more easily through a line of text.

The contrasting sans serif font is Frutiger: originally designed in the seventies by a Swiss typographer, Adrian Frutiger. This typeface is regarded as one of the best choices for giving information and legibility and I liked it immediately – ideal for my exercises and informative boxes at the end of each chapter.

NOVEMBER 2016
The whole book is sent off to Short Run Press. I have come to think of my iMac and its Pages formatting as technological hurdles and the only way to overcome its problems is patience. Naïvely I once thought our digital technology was sophisticated. I have come to realise the problems I experience are not my ineptness but glitches in the software after many trips for Apple lessons in Brighton and London. It is necessary to find my way around, not through, a maze of options to sort them out.

Paul required Word not Pages for typesetting. Not a problem, I simply export the documents to Word. Except doing this means the formatting always goes higgledy-piggledy. That is a disaster for the lay-out of poems let alone extracts of prose. Lines and spaces wander all over the place. I send a pdf document for reference. It takes many exchanges of samples for style and lay-out until we’re happy to go ahead with the whole book. Then it’s waiting time for the first soft proof – a copy in my hands to correct.

EXETER ST DAVID’S TO DIGBY SOWTON 
Notebook: 19th December 2016
It’s a dull December day with a blanket of grey over the countryside. I check my pencil marks on the soft proof copy. At the printing works, Paul and I go through the corrections. So much better to sit side by side and do this directly onto his screen. Well worth the journey.

I have ideas about the cover. I’ve not commissioned a designer. But Paul will be able to turn my ideas into a suitably professional cover. I want it simple and straightforward. I know how important the first impression of a cover is and I know Short Run Press are experienced in dealing with self-published authors.

My thoughts about white lettering on a charcoal grey background bleeding into a paler grey just didn’t work at all. Paul introduces some blue into the grey and he fiddles around with the colours until we end up with a blue-grey fading to pale blue-white at the bottom (the image above has not reproduced true to colour). A red fox leaps across the bottom of the page; we choose two deep blues for the title and my name above. I am satisfied. It fits the subject matter and size of the book and immediately tells the reader what the book is
about with a little mystery around the image of the fox: readers will find out how the fox turns into a metaphor.

Time to think over Christmas and inevitably find a few more corrections. The print run will be in January 2017. And soon I will be shifting those 500 copies from under my bed.

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A Fox Crossed My Path
creative therapeutic writing on a depressive illness

published by Cabin Press
printed by Short Run Press
£10.00

Available in January 2017
Contact me directly to order: monicasuswin [at] icloud.com

A compelling invitation to use writing as a healing and therapeutic tool, based on the writer’s honest accounts of her recovery from psychiatric illness. We are taken beyond the horror to a sense of the power of writing both to transform and enable rebirth. Inspiring.

Robin Shohet, psychotherapist and author

A Fox Crossed My Path is an unusual and compelling book and provides a bridge between the countries of Illness and Wellness. Defying categorization, this is a unique contribution to our understanding of what happens under cover of darkness.

Victoria Field, writer and poetry therapist

***

Editor for the series of four mini-books: Dr Gillie Bolton, an authority in writing for the helping professions, academics and the lay reader. Her recent books include The Writer’s Key – an introduction to how writing can find creative solutions for life (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) & Inspirational Writing – addresses key phases for academics in their critical research process leading up to publication (Sage Publications).

Both books available from the publishers or Amazon                       http://www.gilliebolton.com

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ⓒ Monica Suswin December 2016

NOTES

The Naked Author – A Guide to Self-publishing by Alison Baverstock. Bloomsbury (2011)

The Knowledge Weapon by Annette Boehm. Bare Fiction (2016)
(winner of the Bare Fiction Debut Poetry Collection 2015)

Just My Type – A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield. Profile Books (2010)

Author Photograph by Daniel Regan – http://www.danielregan.com

Short Run Press: Litho & Digital Printers & Bookbinders – wwwshortrunpress.co.uk

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6 thoughts on “creative therapeutic writing

  1. How wonderful to follow the process from thought to publication, I really enjoyed reading this! Looking forward to owning the first book, and here’s to anticipating the other three.

    Like

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