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By: Sarah Michelle Cruz

Whitworth’s English Department offers an amazing class taught by Thom Caraway, where your final project is to literally publish a book. When I took it, the class was called, “Literary Editing and Design,” so we learned how to use In-Design in order to create every aspect of what our finished product would look like, from front to back: The book cover, to the binding, type of material, font, and the list goes on. At the same time, we learned some material editing aspects to prepare us for the publication of our own book.

It was a lot to compact into one course, but definitely rewarding. If you want to know what the self-publishing journey feels like, it’s a little bit like a process full of sweat, tears, frustration, excitement, trial and error. Editing in itself takes a large amount of time with a huge amount of attention to detail. Depending on how long ago you wrote your text, you might end up over-critical toward your writing. I remember that one of my classmates said it would be “a pain in the ass” if she found typos in her published copy. I laughed and didn’t think much of it until I found a typo on the first page of my finished product. In addition, learning to use the In-Design program is difficult in itself, and if you didn’t constantly press save, you have the potential to lose hours of work progress. Sometimes there are issues of missing details on the program, and the mistake is pretty visible in the printed produce. It all takes patience and a willingness to persevere even when your book doesn’t “look” like how you imagined it. But on that note, there’s potential for the book to look even better than you imagine it.

Watching my book come to life was incredibly fun. It is called, “At the End of the World,” and it is a compilation of short stories in the perspective of characters living in a time where the Earth’s trajectory toward spiraling into the sun is inevitable, and the world’s destruction is undeniable. It’s separated into five sections: North, South, East, West, and Andalusia Sky (the “fabled” city in the sky that is believed to survive after the Earth’s destruction), and each sections consisted of four short stories. I had a distinct image of what I wanted the book cover to be, but didn’t have the art skills to make it a reality. So I sketched an image of a man holding a suitcase, looking over the edge of a cliff with a giant orange sun behind him, then I sent it to my friend to paint it. Her adaption of my image is now the cover of my book! As I played around with drawing tools in In-Design, I found that I could create some interesting abstract images. Playing around with that turned into symbolic chapter section images, and the final few pages of my book consists of a series of abstract images that actually look like an explosion that dies down to nothing. That was just a fun result of playing around, which can happen to anyone during the publication process!

If you’re a writer and thinking of ways to publish your book, going the self-publishing route leaves you with many options to create it any way you want, and then distribute it any way you want. I’m currently in the process of figuring out how to publish my book traditionally, and that takes paying large amounts for an editor, finding agents, and waiting for a reliable publication company to publish the product. If anything, there’s even Amazon publishing. I would just encourage any writer to move past the fear of having your work “out there,” whether in a blog or published and sold in stores. You have something wonderful to offer, and the publication process will grow you as an individual, and help you to become a stronger artist.   

Sarah Michelle Cruz is a Whitworth Alum (’16) who majored in English Writing and Psychology. She is currently living in California’s Bay Area, focusing on writing her second novel and readying her first book for publication. She is also a singer/songwriter working on producing her music just for the sake of sharing it.