Thursday, March 31, 2016

And So Concludes the Very Long Poem Series About 2005 and 2006

August 23, 2006
God I’m such a dork

So I just cleaned the mouse on my computer
and oh my god it’s the most amazing thing ever
so smooth and glide-y and wonderful

It goes wherever I point it
It doesn’t stutter and balk or make little rattling noises
And you would not believe the amount of crap I cleaned out of there either
All this weird sticky lint adhered to the little wheels inside
So very gross yet therefore all the more strangely satisfying to remove
And clearly all that disgusting gunk was like majorly impeding functionality

Overall a great experience that I’d highly recommend
to anyone in need of a little afternoon pick-me-up
God I’m such a dork

image source is here

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ask an Art Book Editor, Volume 2

I had the honor of getting to write Ask an Art Book Editor, Volume 2 for the Chronicle Books blog the other day (companion piece to Ask an Art Book Editor and This is What Your Art Book Proposal Needs). Folks write in with questions about publishing in general, and art book publishing in particular, and I respond (as best I can!). Reposting it here for your reading enjoyment--

Who buys art books? Second question (maybe harder): why?
While there is, of course, always an art audience for art books (for example: a fine-art photography audience for fine-art photography books, a museum-going audience for exhibition catalogs, etc.), what particularly fascinates me is the even bigger audience that we can potentially reach with our publishing. If you make art books that are essentially democratic and populist in nature, then you are suddenly inviting a whole lot more people to the art party. What this can mean is that people are coming to art books who don’t necessarily think of themselves as “art people”—perhaps they’re drawn to the subject matter, or are fans of the author on social media, or perhaps the book is just so visually striking or physically exciting as an object that they can’t resist picking it up in the store. Those are all very real reasons why people who may or may not self-identify as “art book buyers” buy art books.
What did you study to become a publisher? What’s your opinion of publishing graduate programs as a way for recent graduates to get a start in publishing?
I have an undergraduate degree in Communications and a master’s in English Literature. Those are both pretty good general qualifications to work in the publishing industry—though I have to admit that publishing was not what I had in mind when I got either one. Since I work on art books, the one thing I might change if I had it to do all over again would be to get some art school in there somewhere. But, then again, that just goes to show that if you have a good basic grounding in your education, you can be self-taught and learn on the job when it comes to category expertise. I don’t know any cookbook editors who went to culinary school, and while most humor book editors are quite funny people, they certainly never went to school for funniness.
I’m a big fan of graduate publishing courses, and also of publishing internships. If you want to get started in publishing, either a publishing course or an internship can be a great way to get around that age-old job-hunting paradox of needing to have experience to get a job, but needing to have a job to get experience.
What is a typical day in the life for you at work?
Honestly? Email and meetings. A big part of book editing is project management, and a big part of project management is email—making sure everything is moving smoothly and everyone is on track, tackling problems and questions as they arise, sending materials back and forth with authors, and much, much more. We also meet a lot with our teams here in-house, both to work on the projects currently in the pipeline, and also to develop and acquire new projects. I also meet with current authors, if they’re local, a fair bit, and am constantly meeting with new talent, agents, and folks with ideas to discuss new projects and the possibility of working together.
People have an image in their minds of the editor sitting there marking changes onto a printed manuscript with a red pencil, and, yes, on occasion I do actually do that—but I have to chuckle to myself almost every time I do, because I always think “Ha! I’m doing that thing! The thing people think book editors do all day long!” In reality, because I work on art books, the editorial process more often involves printing out a whole bunch of images and spreading them out on the floor than it does getting out my red pencil.
Is there a “special” library you all have to enjoy?
We have a book room of our current books for when we need to grab copies to look at or send out to people. We also have an amazing archive room with a copy of every single book Chronicle has ever published going back to the 1960s. But, beyond that, all our desks have bookshelves, and almost every person in this building has their own little library of books at their desk that pertain to their own job. So I’ve got shelves of art books—both ones I’ve worked on and ones from other publishers—some of which I reference frequently, and others I just like having nearby because they make me feel inspired.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Hands down, it’s the moment when the advances come in. Advances are finished copies of the book that are fast-tracked to us from the printer as soon as the printing and binding are done. It’s the first time we get to hold the finished book in our hands—this thing that we’ve been working on, often for several years. It’s the moment when, all of a sudden, you get to see the fruits of your labor. And then as fast as you can, you send them off to the author. Getting to write someone a note that says “Here is your book, congratulations!”, getting to see how it all came together and now there is this amazing thing that didn’t exist before—I’ve done it hundreds of times and, let me tell you, it never ever gets old. It’s a thrill every time.
Photo by Irene Kim Shepherd

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


I've known about Hamilton--the Broadway musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, telling the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton in rap and hip-hop tunes--for quite some time now. In fact last time I was in New York I tried to buy a ticket (bahahahahaha! that maniacal laughter should give you a sense of how well that went. Although, side note, I did see Fun Home on that trip which was positively transcendent). So, anyway, I knew about the play's existence and thought it sounded very cool and imagined that some day (maybe when it comes to San Francisco in 2017) I might manage to see it. But it never occurred to be to buy the record of a show I'd never seen. That is until I read Wesley Morris' piece in this New York Times Magazine "Spectacular" 25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music is Going (scroll down to #2). Morris writes so convincingly about the Hamilton cast recording, saying things like "Even if you can’t score tickets, the cast album is its own transcendent experience. ...a 46-number souvenir for an experience most of us won’t be experiencing. At less than $20...this is a more-than-adequate substitute for the budget-conscious. It’s a gateway to obsession. To know someone who has this album is to know someone who needs a restraining order." And, at least if my own experience is anything to go on, Mr Morris knows whereof he speaks. It's not only an insanely good album, but listening to a story told in music in this way is a new and thrilling experience (as opposed to listening to a record to remember a show you saw--without having seen the show the record becomes its own stand-alone thing). I've owned my digital copy of this album for two weeks and my obsession is full-blown. It's a bit too embarrassing to admit all the various permutations said obsession takes, but other funny and clever people have very accurately depicted it here and here. But let's be kind to ourselves (supposing at least a few of you reading this may share my enthusiasm), shall we, and call it inspiration rather than obsession?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Advanced Tummy Time

One of the (vast vast number of) things about having a kid that constantly amazes and surprises me is how she has the exact same face now as she did five years ago. Why should this be a shock? What else did I expect? But nevertheless it still gets me every time.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sarah Awad

I had a great time visiting the fine folks at the Dryansky Gallery the other day. It was the last day of their show In the Footsteps of Masters. The show featured three fantastic artists--but the one whose work I loved most of all was Sarah Awad. At first glance you might think her paintings are entirely abstract, but upon closer inspection they reveal themselves to be female nudes. Her brushwork is masterly and the colors are phenomenal. Enjoy them! And a very happy Art Friday to you!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Crap You Guys We Have Reached the Penultimate Poem Not Only in the Series About the Summer of 2006, But In The Much Larger Series About The Entire Year of 2005/2006

August 22, 2006

an odd thing occurred to me
namely that I love the windows
in the office ladies room

one wall of said restroom faces
onto the big square airshaft
that runs down through the center of the building
making each whole floor a big rectangular donut

and in this wall are two
of the huge old original windows
which are as everyone knows
by far the best thing
about this building

these particular two
being bathroom windows
are of frosted glass
nevertheless they let in
a considerable amount
of natural light

exposure to which
even during the short span of time
required for a visit to the restroom
makes one feel altogether more human
than would the horrid fluorescents alone
which make people look and feel
like green-tinged corpses

image source is here

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Speaking at RayKo

I had the honor of being the guest speaker at a class about photo book publishing at RayKo Photo Center last night--which basically meant hanging out in the lovely space below for an hour with ten students and their teacher, talking about the publishing process and answering questions and doing my best to demystify the whole thing. Book publishing in general, and art book publishing in particular, are often left at best opaque and at worst baffling to artists--the very people who, personally, as an editor, I want to know all about it. So the various speaking gigs I do are all little parts of a larger effort to just try and get the word out.

Images from Google Street View and RayKo's website

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Twenty-Seven Years in Ten Perfumes

I've been inspired by this Cup of Jo post "My Life in Perfume" by Caroline Donofrio to put together a little re-creation of my own personal perfume timeline. It turns out to be tricky--memory is slippery and images of old perfumes are hard to track down. But here goes!

Up until 2010 all the scents I loved were fresh, fruity, sweet, and floral. Then things changed. Here's the story.

1989: Electric Youth -- I'm a miserable eight grader but this pink stuff in a bottle seems really cool. Never mind that it smells like candy melted in hairspray.

1990 - 1994: Body Time Rain / Body Time Jade -- all through high school I wore (as did all the girls I knew) essential oils from the Berkeley shop then called The Body Shop, now called Body Time. Freshman and sophomore year I wore a scent called Rain and the last two years I wore one called Jade which I considered profoundly more grownup and sophisticated.

1994 - 1996: ck one -- me and every other alterna white college girl in america wore this "unisex" perfume (I never did know a boy who wore it) believing profoundly in the purity of our mid-nineties slacker minimalism, and smelling pretty good while we did so.

1996 - 1997: lavender oil -- I spend my junior year in England and subscribe to my mother's deeply-held belief that if you wear a certain scent in a certain time and place, and never again, it will always remind you of that time in a powerful Proustian manner. Alas the scent I choose is both too weak a preparation and too ubiquitous a smell. It doesn't work.

1997 (summer): Crabtree and Eveyln Freesia -- I try again with the whole scent-of-memory thing, popping for this bottle of floral yumminess on the high street in Oxford before jaunting off to backpack around Europe for six weeks. It works a bit better--to this day the scent of freesias reminds me vaguely of something in the past, though in a fairly nonspecific way.

1998 - 2003: Bare Escentuals something-or-other -- in the midst of post-college bumbling around I buy a bottle of a perfume, not the one pictured above, but something made by the same company (before they became a makeup brand) and packaged in a similar bottle, that I believe was maybe called Fresh, though I can find no record online today of such a thing ever having existed. I decide I love it and when I go back to the mall to buy another bottle it's on sale, and clearly going away for good, so I buy three or four bottles and proceed to wear it for a good four or five years. It smells like grapefruit.

2003 - 2004: Pin Stripe Skirt -- I become an editorial assistant at a book publishing company and feel I have finally arrived. I must reinvent myself as a professional woman! I buy this at Anthropologie. I can't remember what it smelled like at all.

2005 - 2010: Lovely -- I get married and feel I need another upgrade. Celebrity perfume from a department store is posh, right? I adore this one, probably largely because, let's be honest (though I don't realize it at the time), it's almost all the way back full circle to Electric Youth; famous blonde lady, pink in color, smells like candy (though this one is quite a delicious candy scent).

2011 - 2016: Tokyo Milk Dark #17 Arsenic -- I have a baby. When I go to spritz on perfume on my first day back to work after maternity leave I am horrified: the sort of sweet perfume I've loved for more than twenty years smells terrible, sickly and repulsive. What the heck? Apparently my hormones or something have completely altered my sense of smell or my taste in smells or something. I go to Sephora and spend ages smelling every perfume in there, most of which I hate, until I find this one which is super duper weird and delights me entirely. The marketing copy describes it thus: Sea Salt, Vanilla Bean, Cut Greens, Cardamom, Crushed Fennel, Absinthe. It sounds (and kind of smells) like a fancy cocktail, not a perfume. I am in love. For now.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Holiday Finery

Here is Mabel all dressed up for our festive pre-Christmas brunch at the Palace Hotel. Her dress and her boots are sparkly. Her sweater is seasonal. What could be the significance of her pose is a mystery lost in the mists of time (if indeed anyone ever did know).

Friday, March 18, 2016

Louise Tuckwell

Lately I've gotten excited about the work of Australian painter Louise Tuckwell, for obvious reasons. I first came across her artwork on The Design Files and there's more to be seen and learned at her page on the Damien Minton Gallery site. Happy Art Friday!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Here Comes The Next Poem in the Very Long Series About the Summer of 2006

August 21, 2006
A weekend of pure busy-ness almost all weekend long

including but not limited to the very enjoyable
complete sensory overload of wine tasting
the scenery
the views
the grapes hanging down in huge dark clusters from the vines
the hot smell from the wooded sides of the road when driving

and of course the wines themselves
sometimes spicy
sometimes dry
a white that smelled like stinky cheese
a red that smelled like green bell peppers
a pale as hell bone-dry rosé

Then this morning Bill walked me to work on his way to
his first day back in his classroom
where he will get ready for
school to start next week
and on the way we saw a very dapper cab driver
wearing seersucker pants and a red shirt and a tie
and a jaunty straw hat with a band with a feather in it

image source is here

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Hooray hooray! It's here it's here! The moment when I can show you my Spring 2016 list in its entirety. And what a list it is. Fifteen titles from a group of some of the most amazing, lovely, and talented folks it has ever been my pleasure and honor to work with. All available either now, or very soon, from Chronicle Books or wherever top notch books and paper products are sold. Ok, enough with the sales pitch, here are the goods--

Advice From My 80-Year-Old-Self by Susan O'Malley

Feathers by Robert Clark

How to Be a Wildflower by Katie Daisy

Marimekko Mini Journal Set

Marimekko List Ledger

For Love by Alice Yoo and Eugene Kim

Londontown by Susannah Conway

Create Now by Marlo Johnson

Lucky Day Celebration Garlands by Sophie Blackall

Lucky Day Notes by Sophie Blackall

Lucky Day Journal by Sophie Blackall

The Little Pleasures of Paris by Leslie Jonath, Illustrations by Lizzy Stewart

The Joy of Swimming by Lisa Congdon

642 Things to Draw: New York and 642 Things to Draw: Paris

And, bonus item if you read down this far--all the previous seasons' of books I have edited for Chronicle Books since I've been blogging (just watch my visual presentation skills rapidly deteriorate as we venture backwards through time! but never fear, the books remain awesome all the way back): F15, S15, F14, S14, F13, S13, F12, S12, F11.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

That Arm Thing

When I was a young actor in high school and college plays, one of my great flaws was my uncontrollable tendency to throw my arms out in big gestures when speaking. I therefore feel great affinity with these ladies here.

Above a shot by Cass Bird

an illustration by Nelleke Verhoeff

and a photo showing the Uber den Wolken fashion collection