Sunday, July 30, 2017

Cover for Julia Stoops' Parts per Million

Update! We now have a brand new cover for the book. You can check out the new one here.

Recently, I was privileged to design the front cover for Julia Stoops' novel Parts per Million, due out in April of 2018.

Parts per Million is a fast-moving novel full of fascinating characters and loads of relevance. The manuscript was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize. Here's what publisher Forest Avenue Press has to say:

When John Nelson abandoned his government job to join a scrappy band of activists, he didn’t realize trying to save the world would be so hard. His ideals remain strong, but his optimism is wearing thin. His fellow activists—computer hacker Jen Owens and Vietnam vet Irving Fetzer—still think he’s a square. And their radio show can’t compete with the corporate media.

Parts per Million, Julia Stoops’s socially conscious, fast-paced debut novel, is set in Portland, Oregon, in 2002. As the trio dives into anti-war protests and investigates fraud at an elite university, Nelson falls in love with an unlikely house guest, Deirdre, a photographer from Ireland—and a recovering addict. Fetzer recognizes her condition but keeps it secret, setting off a page-turning chain of events that threatens to destroy the activists’ friendship even as they’re trying to hold the world together, one radio show at a time.

As well as being a fantastic writer, Julia is a fine artist. I'm in love with Julia's art! It's ethereal and geometric and gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Check out her work here

As an artist, Julia had a vision for her book that included interior illustrations, and publisher Laura Stanfill loved the idea. Julia chose artist Gabriel Liston to create the art. Gabriel is a fabulous artist who shows with Froelick Gallery in Portland. Check him out here. Julia and Gabriel are hard at work on the illustrations for Parts per Million now, consulting closely so that the end result is as close to Julia's vision for the book and its characters as possible. 

Together, and with the help of consultant Kristi Wallace Knight, they've mounted a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the artwork. Check it out here. There are more fabulous art samples like the one above, and more info about the project. For folks interested in supporting the project, there are some really amazing and unique thank you gifts, including zines, patches, original illustrations, even professional feedback for writers by publisher Laura Stanfill!

There are 13 days left to go for the Kickstarter campaign, and they are already well on their way to meeting their goal.

I can't wait to see the book in its finished form with Julia's lovely writing and Gabriel's lovely illustrations and Laura's great interior design work. The book will hit the shelves in April of 2018. Here's a taste!

So unbelievable. We get home from a big firebombing only to play host-with-the-most with some random stranger. What the hell was Franky thinking? He’s a goddamn house sitter, not a hotel manager. Of course Nelson, being ambassador from planet Dork, is into it right away. And Fetzer caved in like five minutes! Bunch of rescuers.

The woman Frank so generously invited into our headquarters stands in the doorway, looking around like she’s hungry and there might be a buffet conveniently laid out somewhere among the filing cabinets and desks.

“Stay there,” I tell her. Last thing I need is her snooping through our stuff.

Fetzer stands in the middle of the basement with his gut sticking out and his hands on his hips. “She can go over here,” he says, and walks down to the end, like we’re supposed to follow. There’s that old camp cot against the wall. He eyes the pipes along the ceiling and strokes his chin. “We could string wire, rig up curtains. Out of sheets.”

“What for?” I say.

His voice goes quiet as I get closer. “She’ll want privacy. I have a feeling she’ll be here more than one night.”

“Nope. No way.”

He picks up a stack of folders off the cot, then looks back at her leaning in the doorway with her arms folded tight. “She’s sick, see?”

On his birthday: early journal entries about my brother Frank, with spelling errors intact and my own commentary in green

December 31—Frank and Mom found a stray puppy and brought it home a month or something after Gertrude died. But we aren't going to keep the stray. I call her Shoepolish.

September 19—Today we went to see the play "West Side Story." It was great. We got autographs like we did in Oklahoma. We had almost the same seats, In front. At the rumble where the 2 leaders are supposed to be dead Frankie yelled out (during silence) "Are they dead?" [He shouted this in the theater during the dramatic silence following the two men falling dead. The whole theater burst out laughing and I remember one of the dead actors on stage trying not to laugh.]

September 30—Edina's birthday. We went to the French Pantry for Edina's birthday. Alaine (a waitress) teaches sign language. She gave us name signs. Mine's an "E" (left hand) rubbing my right arm. (I like to make music). Edina is 2 "E"s signing "talk". Frankie is an "F" with the 3 last fingers chomping the thumb for Pac-Man.

December 7—The McLittle Theatre is going to do "Best of Friends" in Feb. when noni & Coco come out. I'm Jenni. Frankie's Jonathan, Heather's Susan Evans, Edina's Dad, Shena's Mom & Mara's Mary. & I just can't wait! It was soooo! windy at night!!!! [The McLittle Theatre was what we called ourselves when we did plays and made the parents watch. Of note here is that Frank played Jonathan, a character who died pretty close to the beginning of the play, and my sister Edina got stuck playing the dad.]

January 1—It is now 1983. [I wrote the number 3 at the stroke of midnight.] Happy New Year! I resolve to be a nicer, more outward person. I am a shyish person, but I resolve to become less shy. We had a party at my cousin Heather's lake house. It was my family, Heather's & the Macys. We took a boat ride & had a foot ball pool. Frankie & Ev Macy won!!! When we went to the dock there was slush on the ground!!!! (This is California!) I prayed for snow & in a way I got it!

February 3—Gayle of course wasn't at school today. I hung around with Julie Davenport & Kristin at lunch. They wanted me to play a mean trick on Frankie. I didn't.

February 24—The rapid precipitation and thunder and lightening were simultanious at around 3:00 today. Frankie and I ran to the van, the rain pouring around us. I had double warmth because of the use of my 2 coats. Gayle wasn't at school so I remained solitary untill she arrived. We had bells and during it, a drill for earthquakes but there wasn't the slightest tremor. Gayle & I talked about dumbfounding & stupefying dreams we'd had. After school we had hot chocolate. It had an aromatic eroma and was sensationally delicious and warm with cream on top. I played video games on coleco and helped Frankie with homework. Through it all, I deduce, precicely that it was a fairly chaotic day but alittle chaos makes the eazy easier.

March 1 Today I went outside & sang in the rain. I sang the song "Here comes the rain" that I made up on Feb. 27th and just (from that) sang anything I thought of (about the rain). I'll always sing. My life is like a musical. A long time ago I sang a circus song. Frankie & his friend were making a circus for Heather & I to see. I got up and starting singing about what you need for a circus. Heather joined in on a 2nd verse and we sang just like a musical. I loved it. I've sang about what to do (A song called "What shall we do today", I've sang about when Mom wouldn't understand me (A song called "What do you mean by that) etc. I always just sing. My life is a musical.

April 10—I went to Shena's. We watched 3 movies. The Incredible Shrinking Woman", "Somewhere in Time" & "Annie." I did a large sermon outline. We have 2 new games. "Oink" & "Space Panik" I played "Star Wars" with Frankie.

May 10—I went to the orthodontist. I got an impreshion of my teath, learned all about what they're going to do. Shena came over. We started talking over "old times." Frankie went to the SanDiego Wild Animal Park. At the bird show a bird took a dime out of his hand. In the cat & canine show a dog took a necklace from him. In the elephant he lied down while an elephant crouched over him.

May 15—We (Shena & I) had 2 doughnuts each when we came to my house to get some Atari cartages to play at Shena's house. I went with Shena & Peg shopping for a shirt for Shena to wear to model some homemade pants in a fashion show. At home, we had (my family) strawberry-short-cake for dessert. Frankie & Edina got new bikes. Frankie is trying to learn how to ride his. I saw "An Officer & a gentleman" again.

May 21—Today was really part work, part play. (The play part was more) I finnished cleaning out my clothes. I cleaned out my room & vacuumed it. I listened to my play tape reciting my lines 2 ½ times. Afterwards Dad, Frankie & I went to the park to help Frankie ride his bike. When we came home it was time to swim. Frankie & I swam. Mom came in once. In the morning Edina, Frankie & I went to yum yum's for doughnuts. We walked. As I walked down the sidewalk I felt the love in the morning air. I saw 2 "planet of the Apes" movies.

May 25—At school today during P.E. a giant swarm of bees swarmed around the play ground. I had a good piano lesson. A kid in Frankie's class (Matt) punched Frankie & he hit the ground on his chin. He (Frankie) now has a big bump on his chin. He also, at home, got stung by a bee. What a day he must have had!

June 9—I did my science project & got a 97. I said an extemporaneous speech about Frankie.

June 10—The 8th grade got our year books today. I got it signed by alot of people. In the back Mom had "Roses are Red violets are blue Gigi graduated - yahoo; yahoo!" put in & "Edina & Frank did good too….".

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Anatomy of a birthday card: July, 2017

Sometimes when Stephen and I do birthday or anniversary cards for each other, we're able to take an image and simply change the faces out with our own or update in small ways. Sometimes one of us gets a bee in her bonnet and has to collage something together using more than one or two images. This year, I had an idea to have Stephen in a garden with a paintbrush, painting flowers into existence. When I googled to look at initial images of pretty women (because, you know) in gardens, I came upon all these old fabulous illustrations for seed packets and catalogues.

There wasn't a single that suited me best, so I created my card by cobbling together pieces of different illustrations.

For the outside...


And for the inset...

The backgrounds and flowers came from the first two illustrations (one of which, you'll notice, isn't a seed packet or catalogue but a farm annual) (incidentally from a company who shares names with Stephen's grandmother on his mother's side, the one who was a great influence on him, encouraging him to be an artist; it was one of her married names... she had a few... she led a very interesting life. Stephen wrote blog posts about  Elizabeth Pennington Foster Matson Alberts Dahm Burpee here and here) (where was I?) (to get you up to speed, I started this sentence saying the backgrounds and flowers came from the first two illustrations...) and I cobbled together the wording from the wording on these as well. Then with the inset illustration, I had to expand the area of the peas and that took more cobbling. As did photoshopping out background lettering and details and expanding the space of the outside backgrounds. So, yeah, this card took a good long time.

The illustration for the inset, interestingly, is an ad for a stove company. But it worked great as a stand-in for one of those insets of impeccably-dressed ladies in the garden. I'll admit, I allowed Stephen's face to be probably a tad larger than it should have been. It was small enough as it was and, with making him a woman, I was losing clarity and recognizability when I reduced it, particularly for the printing of the card, and the primary goal is to create something that is Stephen.

The image I used for his face was an outtake from a Madeleine Prévert photo session:

We drove out to the Oregon Country Fair for his birthday yesterday, and had a picnic breakfast of sandwiches and cava in the parking lot as we waited for the fair to open, and he opened his card then.

He was surprised when I told him a little bit about the process and told me it looked like I'd just put his face on a single illustration, so whew, I knew I'd done what I'd set out to do. But if you want to see something really pretty, you should see Stephen's little flower garden along the side of the house, the first of much more gardening to come for our still new home.