When I Publish for Others, I Am Rich

My friend, Cynthia, had ALS for ten years. Before she died last fall, she published a non-fiction book that is still read and cherished by all her friends and family. We, a team of friends, made this book happen for Cynthia.

Another book came into being this year. My middle school students wrote stories all during the school year, and now they have those stories in a book. That book is in their school library and in their homes. Together, we, a team of the students, their families and me, made that happen as well.

I look back on this last year with pleasure in accomplishing those two publications. These are publications, done out of love, and they have brought pride and joy to their authors and to all of us involved.

Three years ago, I took a class in layout and design using Microsoft Styles. My first non-fiction book, was designed by Bruce Taylor Hamilton, then the editor of the Oregon Historical Society Press. From working with Bruce, I knew that I could use InDesign to do what I wanted to do. My choice to use Microsoft Styles wasn’t a choice between good and bad design programs. It was a choice between affordable and not affordable over the long range.

Anthology 2015This year, when I designed the anthology for the middle school students, I was able to bring their writing dreams to fruition, giving them the feeling that all their sweat had been worth sharing with friends and family. The book was a team effort. The students’ selfies became the basis of the book cover, designed by graphic artist, Owyn Richen. Their books were printed at the Mount Hood Community College Print shop, shepherded by Sci-fi author, Theresa Snyder.

And then into my life came the opportunity to use my design skills with another team.

I discovered that OWC member, Gail Black, had collected the emails of our friend Cynthia Greene. Gail had recognized the significance of these emails back when Cynthia could still talk and write. Gail printed out the emails and organized them chronologically. As time went on, Gail and Cynthia added short stories that Cynthia typed on her special communication devices. As Cynthia lost her voice and the ease of finger typing, these stories came more slowly, but each one was a joy to Cynthia’s friends and family.

The early emails were the story of sailing adventures of Cynthia and her husband, David. For several years, they sailed around Mexico in the Pacific Ocean and in the Sea of Cortez. Cynthia and David encountered storms, engine troubles. They weathered, and helped clean up after Hurricane Marty hit Mexico. Each obstacle forced them to reach deep into themselves to solve problems and roll with the big waves. Their motto became, “The difference between ordeal and adventure is attitude.”

Their sailboat, Reaching Deep, referred, at first, to reaching deep water, but took on an especially poignant meaning when Cynthia discovered her many symptoms were ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. From that time on, Cynthia and Dave had to exercise their courage and resourcefulness in ever deeper seas.

Reaching Deep

When I saw Cynthia’s emails, I knew they should become a book. Cynthia imagined a book for her grandchildren, but it has since become sought after by all who knew her struggle to test the limits of life with ALS.

Scanned documents require cleanup. The scan program thinks every paper wrinkle must be a letter and the program misreads fonts it hasn’t been taught to recognize.

So after much editing and word guessing, my bleary-eyed self sent the digitized and designed manuscript to Cynthia’s daughter-in-law, Cindy Greene and her sister Kiki Klipfel who caught and fixed many scan misunderstandings and misspellings.

Owyn Richen came to the fore again, using photos of Cynthia and David, and Amazon’s Create Space cover-maker program to teach his mom how to create a cover.

The teamwork in both of these books created a network of caring for the students and then for Cynthia and her family. The pleasure of those friendships, the opportunities to share joy, accomplishment and even grief has made each of us a richer person. I’m very thankful to the authors and each person who worked to make these publications a reality.