My uncle Michael published half a dozen books. Everyone in our family prominently displayed their set. A foot-long row of familiar spines standing proudly together — his books, his name repeated across them. I envied the pleasure I imagined that gave him, that cube of honored real estate.
I made my first book when I was six. A stack of deliciously thick paper. The smell of library paste, a smell I can taste (probably because I did). A clear plastic sleeve filled with a rainbow of markers. Brass paper fasteners.
I treasured the pleasures of bookmaking. Carefully lettering my name on the title page. Alternating pages of drawings with pages filled with large, neatly penciled letters. Numbering all the pages. Making up the front matter: the publisher, the copyright, the dedication. Conjuring up blurbs from my favorite authors to put on the back.
My biggest regret: my books never had a proper spine. I couldn’t run my name and title and the Dewy Decimal number down the edge. It didn’t look right on the shelf.
But that was a minor blunt to my pleasure. I was still “an author”.
A half century later, whenever I visit a book store or a library, I always, eventually, wind up looking for my books on the shelf. I can spot them from across the room, familiar faces in a sea of stripes, like spotting my son on a crowded playground.
No matter how many books I publish or sketchbooks I fill, that boyhood thrill is still there. I love the shelves of books I’ve made, all together, spines aligned like little soldiers.
Oh, BTW, I am soon gonna add a new spine to my collection. Shut Your Monkey: How to control your inner critic and get more done is in the design/illustration phase and will soon head to the printer. It’ll be on the shelves of your local bookstore this fall.