Sunday, June 21, 2009

The art of typesetting, school study, and a great review

It was my birthday this week, and I have had some wonderful birthday week treats, writing-wise. To start with of course there were the first proofs of my novel Too Many Magpies. This is such a magical moment, and for me has been even more magical since I was a typesetter myself, for the short-story mag metropolitan: I know exactly the care that has to go into getting the right look on the page for the text, the choice of font, of margins and point size and leading, the clever fiddlings needed sometimes with kerning (manually altering the spaces between the letters) (which I know I didn't always get right), the understanding of language and respect for the reader's perception in judicious hyphenation, the overall patience yet artistry needed. Text as paint, is how I used to think of it, and still do, and so now when I get my first proofs, it's not just that thrill of authorization I feel, but also the almost physical sense of the way my words have been shaped into something concrete by an artist. And something beautiful - the typesetting for TMM, which has been done personally by my lovely publisher Jen Hamilton-Emery, is beautiful! So that was a really lovely start to the week.

Then Jen told me that the story 'Compass and Torch' (which appears in my collection Balancing) is to be included in an anthology and accompanying DVD for GCSE students - the second school book in which it is to appear. Mind you, from some of the comments by schoolkids clearly forced by teachers to read it on the East of the Web site where this story first appeared, I'm wondering if it's a double-edged thing. And if I'm remembering rightly, when Vulpes Libris had a week devoted to short stories, some of the negative comments about short stories as a form were from people who had clearly been put off them by studying them at school! But then it's not just short stories, is it, that people get put off by school study, and not everyone gets put off, do they: when I mentioned my worry to my visitor Ben, who was staying on Friday, he said, 'Oh no, I really loved the stuff I studied for English at school - and all my Art School friends, did too!' - which reassured me a little.

Finally, I got an absolutely wonderful review for Balancing on the Shelf Life blog. Here are a couple of extracts:.
Balancing on the Edge of the World is a slim volume, but what it lacks in heft it makes up for in emotional power...

Every story is meticulously crafted, and I loved how the stories are told with such a compact grace. Baines takes life's mundane moments and invests them with meaning, power, and a sort of magic. I also loved how the stories all made me feel something. I am not someone who cries while reading, but I definitely wiped away a few tears while reading some of these stories. There is an emotional honesty to them that is really raw and intense, and I found them very affecting.

I was really impressed with Baines, and how she gets to the heart of the matter. I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

Oh, and on the non-writing front: I bust my sewing machine and thought that would have to be an end to my hobby of buying charity-shop clothes and altering them, but then was told it could be repaired and be good as new! A great birthday present from the man in the nice old-fashioned sewing machine shop in Eccles!

2 comments:

Debi said...

Happy birthday! Hope this turns out to be wonderful year for you. x

Elizabeth Baines said...

Thank you, Debi!