Hello, students! Welcome to our class blog for the Spring 2013 sections of Literary Publications. A few things to note:

  • You will need a WordPress account to post to the blog. I’ll be collecting email addresses during the first class and then inviting you to be an author for the blog. If you have an existing WordPress account, you can use that for this class. If not, you will need to create one (but don’t worry, that’s quick and easy).
  • This blog is shared by the Tuesday and Thursday sections, so please be aware of that. Although it’s more for me to keep track of, I think you’ll benefit from the shared ideas.
  • You will notice that I’ve left the posts from the Spring 2012 classes in this blog. I encourage you to look through them for inspiration and ideas.

If you have any questions about this class blog, please feel free to contact me at meredith.purvis [at] ubalt.edu.

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Check out this quick “How-To” guide I put together to guide you through the first-time log in process (it addresses both existing and newly created WordPress accounts): Getting Started With Our Class Blog


The concept of my final project was Dark Clouds and Silver Linings. I wanted to show poetry that expressed pain and then some that expressed how pain often leads to growth. I chose  to use the dos a do binding style because I liked the idea of presenting two opposing perspectives in one package. My initial idea was to create two full signatures of poetry for both sides but when I finished my mock up I realized that I had not gone out of the book box and I needed to be a bit more creative.

Being a die hard once I get started with something I kept with the idea of the dos a dos and the dark clouds and silver linings but I changed the construction of the book so that the middle section was more than a hinge. I made it into a cloud and I bound the sides of the dos a dos into the center of the cloud. It was a bit challenging because I had to figure out how stay true to the binding method and be sure that it all worked but to create the sense of a cloud with the construction.

I couldn’t use paper because the cloud was to curvy so I spray painted the book board after sanding it down to be smooth. I painted the dark clouds side black and I used silver glitter paint for the silver linings side.

I used embossing powder to write the names of each side onto the covers because I wanted to keep the silver and glittery feeling in every part of the cover.

I used plain white paper of a heavier thickness than regular copy paper because I wanted to keep with the black and white theme and I didn’t want the pages to be too bulky. I used calibri font because it gave the poem a clean look on the page. 

The poem I wrote for the Dark Clouds section was called Shock. I carved an image of a cloud with lightening and printed the image into the poem. I used a pamphlet style sewing method for the Dark Clouds section but when you flip to the Silver Lining section you will see that I went in a completely different direction. I used the turkish fold for that side because I wanted to give the feeling of opening up like a sun rise. I even highlighted the lines of the fold to look a bit like a sun.

The sun is the only color that is in the book because color comes into a thing only when we can see the positive side of it.

If I were to do this book again what I would change is that I would have figured out a way to make the sun beam out of the fold like a pop up burst of light. 

I wrote both of the poems for this book and I would probably like to add more poems to accentuate the themes.


The concept for my short story book, “Star Child,” was to create a visual vehicle to match the story’s major symbols–stars and indigo. My concept is original, marrying my personal experience of being in Timbuktu for one week in July of 1994 and the memory of the sky’s starry canopy. The story links the myth of wishing upon the stars (Pinocchio and others) with the culture of New Orleans conjure (my family’s heritage) as well as the Akua Ba story from Akan cultural lore. The crudely tanned leather and African motifs on the leather worked well for that ancient manuscript look that I was going for.

I was challenged to work neatly and persistently. I knew that there were going to be a lot of little tasks to attend to in order to make the final project look professional and polished than my last attempt at midterm.

With regard to craftsmanship, I definitely stepped up my game on cutting the paper with more precision. I need to work on covering the covers of my book more effectively. Notwithstanding, I like the way it looks. I am pleased.

I used the form as best I could. The Coptic stitch was difficult for me and I wanted to master it. I am fascinated with all things Ethiopian, since I carry the name of his majesty Haile Selassie I. The only way that I can improve on this form is to experiment with a different kind of thread, maybe a leather thread to match or contrast the color of the leather.

The front cover of the book reflects two of the major ideas in the short story. I insisted upon using the Tuareg leather made in northern Mali. The recycled leather from the pillow adds to the frame story and the enduring myth of return.

My graphic choices include the use of a picture of a mysterious man in the colophon, the Helvetica font lettering from Staples, and the handwritten story to match the technology available to the Coptic scribes.

I didn’t want to call the book Etoile (Star in French), I wanted to capture the gist of the story in the two-word title pointing to the story’ major plot element.

The most significant thing that I will change only relates to learning In Design. I am sure that I could have found a font that looks like handwriting. I am satisfied with the structure, the process I followed, and the construction of the book.

Overall, I am happy with my story. I will continue to work on it for submission for publication.

Because of the content of the book I wanted the book itself to be simple, yet elegant. I originally went with a more standard bound book. However, after the first mock-up i wanted something a little more interesting and inventive. The story itself is a man looking down onto his deceased father lying in a coffin while remembering his best memory of his father. Because it has these two stories happening at the same time I decided to make my book a dos-a-dos.

The part of the story that happens at the funeral is basically an interior monologue of the man describing his father. So what I ended up doing was copying that part and putting just that in the front of the dos-a-dos. I think the monologue almost becomes a poem without the rest of the story. Also, out of context, it is very cryptic which i hope causes the reader to want to flip the book over and read the full story.

My most successful aspect of the book is the cover and spine. My original idea was to use an actual baseball cover as the spine and use a satin type paper on the cover to represent the coffin and the funeral. The real baseball idea quickly died. However I used a book cloth which felt fairly similar to a baseball. Besides that I really went with the original idea of the red satin cover with the baseball as the spine and it worked well.

Mostly where I failed was just in the things I didn’t do. I was satisfied with the simple concept of the book but I wished I could have pushed the form a little further. Everything I thought or tried to add felt forced, so eventually I kept the simple concept.

For the main text I went with a simple, basic type face because I wanted that part to look like a standard essay. For the front text I went with a more antique-looking type-face. I thought by doing this the front text would look more elegant while the back remained standard.

The name of the story is My Pitcher’s Mound. I went with the name because the mound is the central object of the story. It’s the object in the protagonist life that he associates with his childhood and his father.

The concept of my book was to connect Joan of Arc with poetry. 

Creatively, this challenges me to use color and images.

This project was difficult to make. I made everything by hand with the exception of the images. I worked with spray paint in windy conditions and worked with a large project in some small areas. I succeeded in making a book that is unique and visually worthwhile although if conditions had been more suitable, I would have been able to redo the colored writing on the blocks with darker shades of blue and purple.

I tried to take advantage of the opportunity to work on a large space. I approached it sort of like Jackson Pollock in that I worked on the floor and visualized and made decisions with the project on the floor.

The book is linked to the content using images from Carl Th. Dreyer’s film The Passion of Joan of Arc.

I wanted as much as possible to be handmade so it would feel more authentic and more genuine as a written work with handwritten text than it would otherwise.

I chose the title “in delirium” because delirium is a state of inspiration.

If I were to make this project over again, I would watch the weather more closely to find out when it would be best to paint outside.  

This time around I wanted to make a standard hardcover book—mainly because I’ve never made them before. My idea was to make the interior less standard so it could be at least a little surprising. I think, if I had had the right equipment, this would have worked wonderfully. As it is, I didn’t. All of the materials work well together, but I don’t have a printer and that definitely made things much more difficult than they needed to be.

It wasn’t easy to figure out how to make a PDF from a PostScript file on InDesign CS6. I’m a master now, in case anybody has any questions about it. Even after that nonsense was figured out I still had to deal with a cheap printer that didn’t want to work with my watercolor paper. I think I can contribute about 80% of the problems in these final copies to the fact that I was struggling with electronics. That printer seriously didn’t want to cooperate and I ended up with some misaligned pages. My interior design isn’t too forgiving so what could have been a small problem is actually huge on mine, and results in a couple of the pages not being able to be read. Bummer. There is, however, one copy (#2) that works perfectly. Aside from the InDesign and printing trouble, I still like what I’ve come up with.

I pared down a short story from six pages to three very short “poems.” I guess they can be called poems, or maybe really extreme flash fiction. I was able to leave the protagonist mainly intact. I think a good portion of what he has to deal with in the short story is still in these much shorter pieces. So that makes me happy. The interior design also does a good job of reflecting one of the major obstacles  Douglas Linn is dealing with—jail. The cuts in the pages reflect the jail cell and they’re the reason I ended up rewriting the story the way I did. So content influencing form and then form influencing content. I’m glad it happened that way.

I chose the title Douglas Linn because that’s the original title I had for the story. It works well as part of the cover design, though. The man’s profile sketched on the cover would be pretty awkward without a name. There are basically no secrets hidden in the cover. I guess this design could be seen as predictable or obvious, but I like that there is a simplicity to this whole book. The sentences that make it up are simple and the design concepts are minimal. Still the book has to be read differently than a standard book. I think this contrast works, and that’s probably because it’s a reflection of Douglas Linn’s personality. It all ties together.

I’ve decided that there isn’t too much about this book that I’d change. I think I’ve come up with a pretty solid design here. It’s just a matter of me being able to use the computer well enough to make it work. Mainly, I need to buy a printer. I also need to align the title pages a little better. These are just technical difficulties, as far as I’m concerned. The typos of the design world. Overall, I think the form and content are working well together and that was my number one priority. The materials also work nicely. Another thing I need to work on is figuring out my spine gap, but I have a feeling I’ll need to make a lot more books. For some reason, this seems to be a really hard concept for me to grasp. I would have also liked to have given myself more time to press them. But my bookmaking skills have definitely evolved throughout the semester, culminating in this project, and I think I’ve come a long way.


I finished this essay as I was creating the book form which made for an interesting process. While I don’t think this will be a standard practice of mine, it was really neat to be able to mold the content to the form and the form to the content without making any large concessions because neither existed on its own terms yet. I chose to call this project Momentum for several reasons: the box (the speaker) gains more and more emotion throughout the piece, there’s a lyric quality throughout that sets the reader’s pacing early on, and the entire essay surrounds the idea of memory and momentous occasions. The accordion folds & interior cover lend themselves to a kind of movement or momentum that works nicely, too.


Because the essay takes the point of view of a box, I think I was able to create and present a unique and visually appealing concept (which is a significant improvement from the conceptualization of my mid-term).

the box—Moving away from the idea that I was going to create three very unique boxes was an excellent idea (thanks, Meredith!). I went to a couple of different cigar shops and finally found a group of five that I liked. It did pain me to repurpose these boxes as they were so beautiful, but all for the craft, right? It’s also nice that these boxes were able to serve a purpose without being exact replicas of the photo box I describe in the story—it lets the reader make their own connection to the form

Interior pages and “mini-books”—The pages of this book are still my favorite and most successful element. The simple variation in half-page or full-page folds allows for great movement and reader interaction and lets it get “messy” without destroying the cohesive, simple beauty of the whole thing. I also added two “mini-books” in place of the copyright and author pages. These additions offer limited interaction, linking to the content of course, but also, it adds to this “sorting” idea. If a reader is inclined to read or experience the book a second, third, or fourth time, how probable is it that they’ll read through the copyright a second time? What about the third? With each use, they’re less likely to experience each part of the box and so they’re essentially “editing” the experience, deciding what’s important and what’s not…which is exactly what the essay is about. I was really excited to be able to accomplish this without needing to include “removable” elements

Stamps—I wanted to include images that were appropriate to the content, but my original idea included “found objects” and things that would matter to me but virtually no one else in the world. Meredith and I talked about using stamps for other items that were loosely related, and I did gather a handful of nice silhouettes, but they still just weren’t working with the content and form. Instead, I used InDesign to create a series of rough squares (an image suggesting a box without hitting you over the head) that I then made into stamps. I really like the effect of these images throughout the book; I only wish I’d stamped more across the folds. I did this by mistake on one of the last ones and it’s actually really nice.


Overall, my craftsmanship has improved drastically over the semester, but this project humbled me in big ways. I had to constantly remind myself that I’m still very new to this thing called bookmaking and there’s still quite a bit I need to learn and perfect. Still, I’m learning steadily even if it is painfully slow and sometimes just painful, and that’s really encouraging.

Successes—I’m really proud of my interior pages. I love that the form is mobile while still retaining aspects from the “traditional” form. I’m also glad I stretched myself into this unknown territory rather than playing it safe with one of the hardcover forms we learned in class, because I was able to experience both the essay and the form in a way I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

I could also become a stamp junky. My poor family will now be receiving journals and letters with these abstract squares everywhere. Because I made them. And they’re beautiful. And they need to be used more to pay for themselves.

Failures/Challenges—I intended to use hand-stitching throughout the book (square, oppressive lines at first; curved, freer lines at the end) paired with text blocks that were decreasing in size and font that was increasing in size. These three elements were going to be used to highlight the change in both the “I” and the “You” in the essay

At about midnight last night, I realized the “stitching” that I had done on the first signature on all three books was terrible. It was crooked and uneven, inconsistent, and really, it was unfixable. I couldn’t even just leave those pages as they were because it looked like a huge mistake since it wasn’t anywhere else in the book. I weighed my time options and my obvious lack of skill in this area, and decided it was better to just recut, reprint, and restamp the first signature on each book. This took about an hour rather than staying up all night trying to make the stitching work. It was unfortunate, and I was upset about the wasted materials, but I think it was the right call and my book doesn’t look like it’s missing anything, so that’s positive

I did go with the text blocks decreasing in size, but I was unable to increase the font size since each fold is only 3.5 inches tall and my paragraphs are long. Because of this, the text block change is virtually unnoticeable and I’m not convinced its intent would be clear if someone did happen to notice it.

The cover elements were also a bit of a failure, although the failure still lines up with the content pretty nicely. We’ll call it a happy accident. I tested the stamps out on the paper (old art book) before I glued everything down, and the image came out very clearly. I didn’t realize the ripped paper and glue would interfere once on the box. These unreadable images are still intriguing and match the essay’s description of “tiny strips,” but it’s not the effect I was originally going for. I’ll have to remember to even play around with small things like this while I’m still in the mock-up phase next time.

The final big hiccup that I ran into is the engineering of the “interior cover” (title page, copyright, author bio). I changed the design because the thicker pieces of book cloth wouldn’t behave as the thin strips did in the mock-up. I tried more of a “loop” technique this time, but now the box has to be forced closed and it’s less able to stand up to the test of time. It’s really a bit cumbersome.


I’m using a few other cigar boxes that I acquired through this process as my display. They’ll create a boxy-kind-of theme, but also allow for levels which will let me drape the accordion folds out of the boxes.

I hate pricing, but mostly, it’s because I’m cheap. And so I think everyone must be cheap. And I can’t see anyone paying $35 for a book, but…


Boxes: $10, Paper: $20, Stamps, Ink, & Glue: $25, Book Cloth: $15

Total Materials: $70 (~$23.50 a book)

I’m pricing my books at $35, and I’ll be interested to see how many people’s eyebrows go up at that or say, I wish I could buy it, but it’s just a little too much, or that’s all!? Next time I’ll think about price ahead of time and see if I can plan a bit better to keep costs down.


I would definitely try to fix my “failures” list and rethink those elements. I think there are simple solutions to all these issues and the main fix is spending more time on each step.

I’m proud that I stretched my comfort zone on this project and deviated from the book forms I’m more comfortable with. I identified the needs of this content better than I did for the midterm and made appropriate choices rather than just picking things that I thought looked pretty together (although, I still think that’s important, too.)

Failure after Failure: A Handmade Booking Journey
by Dustin Fisher

They say in the movie business that you’re never happier than when you see your first daily and you’re never unhappier than when you see your first rough cut. Well, I was never happier than when I made my mockup and never unhappier than when I finished the first box for my final.

(Ball added for scale. Baby added for cuteness.)

First, let me talk about my schedule. After turning in my mockup on Thursday, I felt a sense of relief for an hour and a half. Then I knew it was going to take a Herculean effort to finish three of those things with more precision (and complete) in a week’s time. I started Friday night and worked for the four hours each night between outing my daughter to bed and her midnight feeding. It was clear that wouldn’t be enough. So I adjusted my work schedule such that I would also put in four hours after her midnight feeding and try to nap with her during the day to catch up. It was a radical concept which could easily backfire, but it was my best chance at manufacturing enough dedicated time for this project.

I did this from Sunday night through Wednesday night and started sending Meredith panicked emails at 4am with lines like “THE SKY IS FALLING!! Fear for your life and save your cats because as God is my witness, the Nothing is coming!!!” I’d then retract them in the morning with stuff like “I’m sorry again. I think I had one too many ‘project progress twizzlers’ and they were eating into my brain.” It was an unhealthy schedule, despite what just-power-through-it Dustin thought. I was thankfully for my sanity’s sake, given an extension to Tuesday, and I promised to have the one box finished by class Thursday. I’m pleased to say that my daughter, not final-project laden anxiety, kept me up all last night. Somehow I feel that’s a victory.

(Baby missing from picture as poker chips are not baby-proof)

Briefly, because there’s nothing I can do to make this more interesting, this project turned out to cost a lot more than I thought at the outset. The decks of cards alone cost $105 for four. Between artist paper, book cloth and binder board, I probably paid another $40. Then I needed lots of stuff printed and there’s no real cheap way to do that now that I can’t just use my work’s printer. It cost me $30 at Staples just for the one mockup. I was thankfully able to get my wife to sneak into her office before work and print out the stuff I needed for the project. Also, I wasted $40 on DoubleTac, but that is being reimbursed to me for the remainder of the product since it didn’t work for my purposes. So using Meredith’s math, I should probably charge upwards around $125 for these. I may just try to cut my losses.

OK, with the benefit of time and sleep, I can now see that the sky was not indeed falling. My project underwent a few setbacks and has a few inconsistencies, most of which even a discerning eye that didn’t put them together wouldn’t notice. So I’m going to itemize my failures in three different categories below: Failures obvious to everyone with eyes (Level 1), Failures a scrutinizing eye could find (Level 2), and failures only I will likely ever know about (Level 3):

1)      Case One – Book cloth too small (Level 2): After the mockup was so successful when I was just winging it and cutting the book cloth as need be, I thought I’d measure out the book cloth for the remaining boxes and cut them before I started gluing the binder board to make things easier on me. Well, there were some gross mismeasurements. The book cloth in total was about an entire inch shorter than it needed to be. I needed to peel off the binder board after gluing it down on several occasions. This pissed me off more because I thought I had accounted for the “spine” of the box and everything than because of how I was worried it would look. As it turned out, it looks fine. There are some stray pieces of binder board showing because the book cloth doesn’t wrap around where it was supposed to, but a Sharpie disguises that pretty well when using all black book cloth as it turns out. (Note: This was the discovery that made me lose my mind and start sending those emails the first night)

2)      Inserts too big (Level 3): I wanted the inserts that held the chips to be looser so you could take them out and move them around. Because of another miscalculation, the inserts are pretty flush against the box. But that was a stylistic choice that the buyer doesn’t need to know didn’t work right. They all fit and that’s what counts.

3)       DoubleTac is not the same as StudioTac (Level 3): Yeah, I didn’t even use it so nobody will know anything about this, but the StudioTac was supposed to be my savior. But three art stores local to me didn’t have it. And Utrecht was closed at 745pm when I got there Wednesday night. So I went to the MICA store and they sold me this crap and told me it was the same thing but a different name brand. They lied. This is why I hate MICA. (Note: This is what spurred the second night’s panic-ridden email)

Inside the case inside the case)

4)      Case #2 is really the mockup amended (Level 1): I figured after my first box was so much worse (in my eyes) than the mockup, why not just make a couple amendments to the mockup to have it be final product material? So I added some book cloth where need be and put the new artist paper over the old artist paper and voila! My only issue was that the front cover elements were just glued on rather than being inset in chip board (a Cheerios box). So I made some chip board and cut it out so that the elements would show through and glued it to the front. You can tell there’s obviously extra book cloth on top of the old book cloth, but it could just be a design choice, not a mistake. At least when you’re not looking at it in a series of three, you can.

5)      Book Cloth is inside out (Level 2): The black book cloth has two sides to it, one shinier and one darker. The darker side looks to me like it’s supposed to be the outside. After putting together the first case and hating it already because the book cloth was an inch too short, I noticed it was inside out too. Then I noticed it was inside out on the mockup too and I hadn’t noticed that for a whole week so it probably wasn’t that big of a deal. Again, only if you look at the third case that looks like I wanted them all to look would you notice.

6)      The Velcro doesn’t like sticking to artist paper (Level 1): One of my cases has artist paper on the flap all the way to the sides. There is Velcro used to hold the case shut and the Velcro seems to peel off the paper pretty easily. But it should stay together long enough for me to sell it. This is a technique I learned from a car I bought off Craigslist. The muffler fell apart two days after I bought it. Nice work, sleezeball from Craigslist.

7)      The inserts that hold the cards are not put together so well. I accidentally put the card element on first, so the hinge would either cover it up or need to be short. And so they’re too short and keep falling off.

There were some successes in this process, though none in that first week.

1)      The third box, as I just mentioned, I finally got the way I wanted the rest to look. I cut it as I glued, like I did with the mockup, which made it easier to be precise and make adjustments as needed.

2)      The handle turned out to be a pretty awesome functional and artistic element. My wife’s suggestion of using the rope shows just how much smarter she is than our entire class put together.

3)      Glue stick. F@$# StudioTac. The glue stick works just fine to get the paper onto the cards.

4)      The cover looks awesome with the book cloth peeled behind the chip board to uncover the inset artwork.

5)      I added a cover to the box that the cards are in (inside the case). The lid has the book’s title and tagline “Play your cards right and you just might make it out alive” and the bottom of the box has the about the author element. I thought it was a fun place to put that.

Copyright, colophon and About the Author)

6)      The concept of having a choose your own adventure book made into a deck of cards turned out to be a lot of fun to write and I feel like a pretty decent success. I honestly hope to possibly make this the first book in a series, with others to follow that may have to do with strip poker, etc. The writing took a heck of a long time but turned out to be lots of fun.

All in all, I loved this project. I also hated it, but ultimately, I have something fun to show people, even if my wife isn’t too thrilled about paying $2100 for me to take Arts & Crafts.

(My book, inside out)