Tuesday, October 22, 2019

hallelujah! the book is done!

You may have heard this before, but now, seriously, it’s for real. The wax book is done. Finito. Complete. Static (in a sense). Over, done, no more volumes, no more one or two chapters to finish, no more rewrite, no more chapter juggling (though one chapter, I know, is out of place … ), no more references to check, no more playing around with the title, no more quandary of how to present it. For here it is:
Stories of Wax: Being, in essence, a short, non-linear history of wax sparked by a wayward search for truth.
I put it in Blogger’s Dynamic Views Magazine template (or “theme”), tweaking the template a little to get what I wanted, and, if I could tweak it a bit more to get it to operate the same on mobile devices as it does on anchored devices, such as my laptop, I would. But that, for now, is beyond me.

This book has been a two-year, unintentional project. Of course at some point it became intentional, but it did not start out that way. All along,–well, early on in the book, the Scarecrow, from the “Wizard of Oz,” makes an appearance and the question is asked: Which way to go? One decides which way to go, and then one finds oneself asking the question again and again. We are always deciding: Which way to go?

As some may recall, this spring, after completing all but the chapters on waxworks—Madame Tussaud, Katherine Stubergh, Einstein’s Head, and Waxwork—I produced Volume One of the book on paper. I printed a few copies at home, dipped the covers in wax, bound it by hand. I sold one or two copies. Every Saturday, I put two or three copies out on my table at the farmers market. It is still listed online (for the moment) at Etsy. Meanwhile, I worked sporadically on the final chapters. Soon, I knew, I could have a whole, complete book. What then?

My birthday comes late in August, and my birthdays lately have been a reckoning. This year I reckoned that I had spent enough time playing around at writing, should treat it more seriously, should maybe go after an MFA in creative non-fiction at Northern Michigan University. NMU’s campus is just across town, and the school offers free tuition to people my age and older. I went to a few events that gave me a taste of the milieu—author readings and discussions—and I enjoyed them. But it became apparent that committing to doing this type of thing on a regular basis and having to participate on a greater level was just not something I wanted to do.

Meanwhile, I finished the book. I sent the manuscript to an editor here in town who, along with a partner, provides a complete gamut of services from editing and proofreading to preparing a book for print and electronic publishing and handling the follow-through. After looking at some self-publishing websites, I knew I did not want to wrangle with self-publishing on my own. Paying someone else to wrangle with it sounded good. I could end up with a book—a printed book and an e-book. Pretty cool.

I knew Tyler, the editor, from years back. For a short time after I moved to the U.P., I became involved with the Upper Peninsula Publishers & Authors Association, or UPPAA, of which Tyler was a part. For many years, he served as the group’s president. Not only has he published his own books, he has helped other writers in their endeavors. I had looked at Tyler’s website (Superior Book Productions) and could see exactly the services offered as well as a timeline of all that was required to publish a book.

Tyler provided me with a sample edit and quote. I saw the quote first. My serious, perhaps genetic, cheapskate side kicked in. I made note of it, decided to deal with it later. I looked at the sample edit. I could see it was what the book needed—an experienced, knowledgeable, interested, thoughtful, objective hand. No doubt, Tyler’s editing and proofreading could improve my book.

I felt oddly flat.

It came to me slowly throughout that day that whatever the cost, whatever the improvement, it only got me halfway there, or less than halfway, halfway at best, because after turning my manuscript into a book—hello ever-lovin’ insight!—I would have to sell that book, and how the heck was I going to do that? Put it on my table at the farmers market and see who maybe picked it up, put it back down, admired it, seemed befuddled by it, walked away from it, bought it? It didn’t matter. It did not matter what anyone might do because I knew, for sure and undeniably, that I would make no effort to sell the book. Well, maybe some effort, maybe a little effort, now and then, I might try, I might take a step forward, but then there would be, no doubt, two steps back, and it’s not because I don’t have confidence in the book or confidence in my writing. It’s because I don’t have confidence in my salesmanship. It’s because I dislike selling. To be more specific, I dislike suggesting, let alone convincing, anybody to buy anything in particular, even if it’s stuff I believe in. The candles—they sell themselves. I admit that over the years I have gotten a bit better at sometimes helping them sell themselves, but I also think I might be flattering myself with that thought. Sometimes at the market I have conversations with people about beeswax and bayberry wax and candles and all that, and there is no sale, and that is fine with me. If there is a sale, of course that is fine with me too. But sometimes, the candles just sell themselves, I play no part other than having made them and brought them to this place. And sometimes, if someone is spending over a certain amount of money at my booth, when I tell them what it all adds up to, I feel like apologizing, as if I should say, Oh! Sorry it’s so much …

That is not the mindset of a salesperson. That I do enjoy counting up the till after a good day of selling probably has more to do with my relationship with money than anything else.

The day after receiving Tyler’s sample edit and quote, I knew the way to go. Somehow I got into Blogger’s Dynamic View template and the book—how it should be, where it should be, what it should look like—opened up before me. I could see subsequent books going into the same format. I began working with the template, figuring out how to manipulate it, how to plug words and images into it so it became a book, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Every time I started getting impatient because I couldn’t quite figure out some technical aspect or had to keep rewriting some small, irksome passage, I reminded myself: This is how you want it to be. This is what you want to do. And I knew it was true. I knew I did not want to spend money to create something—even if it was a better something—that I would have to sell. I knew I wanted to create something as best I could using the skills I have and then be done with it while still having it there, for anyone, most anywhere, anytime.

So I spent a good part of the last two weeks finishing up the wax book, getting it to its final stage. And it was a heck of a lot of fun. I think, in the end, I am just a self-indulgent writer, and if anybody else gains anything by it, well, that’s the proverbial icing on the cake. The cream in the coffee. The honey in the tea. The wax in the candle. The gleam in the eye. The ink in the pen. The rhyme in the poem.

Monday, October 7, 2019

acorn cap extravaganza, or, a coupla more things to do with cupules (but having nothing to do with couples)

The last thing I expected was for anyone to buy an acorn cap candle.

acorn cap candles

But the first thing that happened was a guy coming along saying, “How much for these?” I had put some cap candles out for display at the farmers market. They were floating in a small bowl of water. They were, undeniably, cute. And this guy wanted them, and he didn’t seem to care how much they cost. But I dithered (“They’re just for display!”). Then calculated (two dollars, five dollars, one dollar … ). Finally, I sold him one or two. I forget for how much. But, by the end of the day, I had made this note: Acorn cap candles! Make more! $1 each!

But I didn’t get around to making more. Next market, I put out the few I had left and when a travelling couple wanted two dozen I had to take an order, get their address for shipping. They paid; I was committed. The next morning, I panicked. What if there were no more acorn caps? What if the squirrels and chipmunks had already gathered and stored them all away? What if the acorn caps were gone? But, not to worry. I found scads along the side of the house and in the front yard and garden. I got down on my hands and knees and collected a bowlful of acorns and caps. Got curious. Why do acorns have caps? Not to mention, how do you get a cap off the acorn if the cap hasn’t already fallen off the acorn? Later, on Wikipedia, I learned that the acorn’s cap is a “cupule,” basically a shell, and so then, in many ways, the “mother hat.”

From Wikipedia: Diagram of the anatomy of an acorn.
A. Cupule; B. Pericarp (fruit wall); C. Seed coat (testa); D. Cotyledons (2);
E. Plumule; F. Radicle; G. Remains of style.
Together D., E., and F. make up the embryo.

Surely one can do many things with mother hats other than make them into candles. For instance, left alone, on their own, unadorned, acorn caps can be turned into whistles. Just search “acorn cap whistle” or click here for a tutorial. I am not even going to try to explain it. I found trying to whistle through an acorn cap difficult, became a little light-headed in the process, did hit one good note, though.

Acorn caps can also be flower holders, kind of an acorn cap boutonniere. Find a cap you can successfully poke a hole through the the bottom of, use a toothpick to plug the hole, fill the cap with wax, remove the toothpick when the wax has set, stick a thin-stemmed flower through the hole. I used an aster. Like the acorn cap candle, the boutonniere can float in a bowl of water as long as the flower is not too big nor the stem too long. These might also look nice placed in a bowl filled with damp sand and pebbles. With the caps thus secure, I’m sure the flower stems could be longer. (Note: The stem sticks out the bottom so the flower can drink.)

acorn cap boutonniere

Or, how about this. Just leave the toothpick in the wax in the cap, attach a sail, and there’s your little acorn cap sailboat. Or not. Let me know if it works.

Of course, you can also use acorn caps as caps. I did that with some little wax birds. Just gave them some mother hats.

birds wearing acorn caps
I imagine these birds are poets, or jazz musicians. Definitely a little nutty.

By all accounts, the cuteness factor of acorn caps in these applications is quite high. People, undeniably, think these things are cute. They say it out loud. And, fact is, believe it or not, I am not always big on cute. But, acorn-cap cute is something else. I embrace it. Wholeheartedly. Lately, walking along, I find myself stopping and stooping for a good acorn cap. And this is not always so easy. Usually I am tethered to Josie, the lead dog, always on a mission, but no mission that ever involves acorn caps, and me, I am simply the wheel dog, trying to hold the cart steady. One morning, hearing a crunch underfoot, I cringed. I looked down. Acorn caps all around! I did my best to slow the pace, walk carefully, was able to stoop and snag a cap or two before being mercilessly yanked along.

acorn cap Buddha