Saturday, August 13, 2022

Book Interior: Glory Guitars

I feel like starting this post with the classic Sesame Street sign-off.

This book was brought to you by the letter G.

Because how can I not, when the memoir Glory Guitars, by Gogo Germaine, is being published by University of Hell Press' Greg Gerding, with cover art by Joel Amat Güell, author photos by Glenn Ross, and interior design graced by my own Gs*? The number of Gs in that list makes me so giddy that I want to go through the entire interior of the book and count all the Gs in it. But that would be weird.


Sesame Street is a strange reference, of course, when you're talking about a book crammed full of sex, drugs, and punk rock. University of Hell describes the book as the "memoir of a ’90s teenage punk rock grrrl." It's a power-chord-fueled joyride full of personality and wit (gee, that sounds like a blurb)—and toward the beginning of this year, Greg reached out to me about designing its interior. Now, interior design doesn't sound anywhere near as fun a project as cover design, but this one was a blast. It was way more than laying paragraphs of text down on the page. Greg wanted the interior design to match the edge and energy of the book and provided me with super fun illustrations that I could use throughout and loads of freedom for experimenting with how to use them.

The cover design was done, as I mentioned before, by Joel Amat Güell, and it's drop-dead perfect.

A lot of Joel's elements from that cover were given to me in individual, black and white form.

And Joel created special illustrations to head each chapter. Like so:

So fun, right?

One of the cool things about Glory Guitars is that it's structured around a "soundtrack." Each chapter is divided up into short sections, and each section is headed and ended with a song in this soundtrack. "Never Say Never" by Romeo Void. "Submission" by Sex Pistols. "Fun Time" by Iggy Pop. "Demirep" by Bikini Kill. The songs give flavor and a nice layer of punk history to the book but they're also nicely curated, reflecting the stories and the tones of each section. My job was to give the soundtrack its visual sense, something that would fit with the overall look of cover and interiors and evoke, of course, music. Music and edginess and, since these were breaks between sections... breakiness.

Joel made us a couple small CD illustrations in the style of the rest of his art, and I arranged things like so, referencing the way the subtitle is styled on the cover.

It was fun to be loose and scrappy with these, make them different every time. The challenge was fitting everything elegantly on the page. If the text came too far down, for example, there wasn't enough space for a soundtrack break but too much empty space left at the bottom. The added element of footnotes on some pages made this challenge even harder. Then the big challenge came in the proofing process, where small changes were being made in the book, and each tiny change could set off a chain reaction to the spacing for the rest of the chapter.

Chapter openers had the special Joel illustration, with some added styling of my own, plus a soundtrack song to start them off.

As I worked through the pages, arranging text and artwork, I found and listened to lots of the songs in Gogo's soundtrack.  I don't know much punk, although I've always like the hypertensive, raw sound of it. It was fun to immerse myself in her chosen songs as I put together the interior of her book.

I won't share all the different touches, but I'll say that I extra enjoyed blinging up her author photos...

...and doing a little Glory Guitars treatment to Patti Smith's epigraph.

Glory Guitars
is available for preorder in all the main places, like Indiebound, and also on the University of Hell Press website where you have the added bonus that you can choose from five different variant color covers. It's officially out on October 11, which is also the International Day of the Girl. A cool promo video, is here. Here's an excerpt to let you know just what kind of punk grrrl you're dealing with:

By age fifteen, we had discovered an intricate infra-structure of debauchery across Fort Collins. Our entire network of punks and degenerates knew its secrets. We knew which liquor stores sold to minors: the cramped chunk of cement on Riverside Drive with a view of the train tracks; the more wholesome, suburban wine shop where parents might shop, yet they surprisingly didn’t ID. We knew which cafes would let underage people smoke inside: Max’s Subsonic—an old house turned café, with rooms to get lost in, that threw actual parties for underage kids—plus late nights at IHOP, and within the dingy, red-painted walls of Paris on the Poudre, the goth cafe. While I’m glad for the health of today’s youth, I almost feel bad they won’t ever experience the dirtbag tang of indoor smoking.

Teenage haunts are havens for illicit activity that are hidden in plain sight; they often have short names easily whispered in a pinch. The Ditch. The Dam. The Path. I knew the Path was a hard place the day one of the skaters shot a new girl at school with a duck gun as his friends erupted in laughter. I was horrified, but the fact that I didn’t do anything to help still haunts me.

There was the Starlite, the downtown punk club as shitty as its glittery aspirational name suggests. It hosted many of my friends’ bands, touring acts, and it even hosted an impromptu show in the parking lot featuring ALL, former members of the Descendents. Plus, the occasional party where girls wrestled in kiddie pools of Jell-O.

The memories of such parties and locations are often mysterious. I have a hazy memory of participating in Jell-O wrestling at the Starlite but can’t be sure. It happened during Corinne’s and my wrestling phase, a brief period when we couldn’t even be together without her getting an evil glint in her eye before thrashing me on whatever PBR-soaked carpet or viscid floor we were on. I have a glimpse of a memory of the Starlite, and looking down to see my white tee soaked in syrupy red. I have another piece of a memory of making out with a skater boy, Shane, in the back of a crashing car. Kitty was backing out and lodged the car into a pole.


*Not wanting to not give credit where it's due, the front cover photos were by the decidedly G-less Carri Lawrence.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Book cover: No God Like the Mother

Recently, Forest Avenue Press acquired reprint rights to Kesha Ajọsẹ-Fisher's story collection No God Like the Mother. It was originally published in 2019—and in 2020 won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction!—but the press that published it, Portland's Inkwater Press, closed its doors and the book went out of print.  Later this year, Forest Avenue Press will be bringing it back and giving it national distribution through Publishers Group West. It's an honor to play a small part in the relaunch of this amazing book by creating a new cover for it. 

It's daunting, too. After all, you want to honor the original but still make it new.

I designed a new cover for a reissue once before, for Sara Lippmann's Doll Palace. In that instance, we wanted a completely new cover, but I incorporated a small reference to the original art into my new design. For No God Like the Mother, the original cover art was created by author Kesha Ajọsẹ-Fisher's own daughter, Omo’Dara Ajọsẹ-Fisher! It's a fabulous line drawing of a woman wearing a headscarf and hoop earrings, standing with her back to the viewer. 

Because of the obvious personal connection between Kesha and her original cover artist, we wanted to create the new design as an homage to that art. But I'll admit that I procrastinated a bit at the beginning of the project. I had a lot of who-am-I-to thoughts. Who am I to take this art and make it something new? An impostor? A usurper? A wannabe who might not be up to the task?

I thought about films that remake the original, how each stand on their own. 

I thought about a recent art series of my husband Stephen O'Donnell (Re:Pose), in which he created new paintings based on classic works, swapping the genders of subjects and using it to say new things.

With that, I started to find my way in, and I quickly got caught up in the task of recreation. Homage is a seductive exercise. Some of my favorite projects have been ones that allowed me to pay homage to something else—pulp magazines for City of Weird, illuminated manuscripts for The Alehouse at the End of the World. For No God Like the Mother, it was content rather than style that I was paying homage to. The single subject, back to the camera, the head scarf, the earrings. I used it all and worked to make it something new.

It turned out that I needed only one basic sample to send to Publisher Laura Stanfill, for her to in turn send to Kesha, and everyone was happy all around. From there it was small tweaks as we arranged the blurb and added the award badge. And then one last step made things really special.

Laura and Kesha discussed adding the Nigerian translation of the title, No God Like the Mother, to the cover. Kesha got us the translation and I thought on how best to incorporate it cleanly and unconfusingly, and we had our cover.

No God Like the Mother will be out sometime later this year, depending on the current supply chain issues. More info is here. And here's an excerpt!

“All my children came with the rain,” she said. “This one will, too.” Her voice was feather-light. She looked down at her protruding belly. “Even the ones fighting to stay inside have no choice when the sky opens.” She held up three fingers. “I walked to the tents by myself, three times, and never came home with my children.” Shifting on her bottom, she continued: “1960, independence for Nigeria, a sweet year, even here in Ile Omi. I heard of a new midwife across the river. When I tried to cross, the river threw me this way and that. I kept moving and singing to chase the pain away. I sang about birds hiding from rain, and inside, you kicked and kicked. When I mentioned the birds returning after the rain to steal fattened worms, you were quiet.”