Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, our Plorkology student publishers are going to share some of their thoughts on the process of creating this anthology and why publishing (particularly handbound) matters. This week, you’ll hear from Amanda McCormick, a second-year student in the UB MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts.
Book making is meditative because it is all about process. The process is labor intensive and involves many steps. Steps that most people don’t think about or take for granted and steps we book makers can even forget. You can accept a challenge or work around it. Making a book or an edition out of a pile of materials quickly teaches you to make good choices. It teaches you to measure twice, cut once and appreciate effort.
I suppose my favorite / best thing I got out of taking part in the birth of Plorkology is that I saw a community form around an obscure interest and build itself up over the course of only a few months. It’s fascinating that something can go from an idea to an actual reality and, just like that, a gesture of passion leads to an audience, which leads to an experience that you can share with others.
Now that the final days are here, many people are getting rowdy about this crazy idea we had to make a bunch of books. It’s a publication, we say. Contributors have a real live book with their name in it. You can buy it from us and we’ll hand it to you.
Can you imagine hours in University of Baltimore’s book studio—cutting, gluing, folding, punching, dreaming. And finally, groups of strangers, now friends, sitting around a table sewing, talking about what concerts they’ve seen over the years, how David Bowie is a heart throb and only laughing when they prick themselves. Is a bindery heaven?
Through this process I’ve seen humans act as systems—finish gluing covers, then cut the end pages; first collate, then fold signatures. Beyond the prep, the decisions, I’ve gotten quite good at binding books. I’ve also gotten used to or am slightly comforted by the hand cramp I get from the Coptic stitch. “We’re making 150!?” I started out saying. “That’s a lot.”
Most would not have the patience for how long each book takes to sew but I love being four signatures deep knowing exactly what do from here ‘til the end. I love the practice I get from doing the same thing repetitiously while I’m thinking about pizza. It makes me calm to fondle paper, to match covers and sew but when I speak about patience I twitch thinking about the back cover of each. THAT step has been a great exercise in being socially acceptable and not flipping a table or piercing my eyelids with a curved needle that is now tarnished from entering so many pages. Alas, I too have sewn the books cover to cover and so have many lovely others. I’d like to thank Meredith Purvis and all the booky people for their help and ambition.
Truth be told, being a part of this project has been less of a learning experience than it has been a chance to do and practice what I know and love. I like having the opportunity to say “Hey! person I would have never knew existed! Remember when we did Plorkology together?!” Or, hey! Timmy Reed, friend and UB alum, I really dug that thing you submitted to Plorkolgy—it started on page twenty-five 150 times.”
Whoever started making books probably thought of them as we do—as our babies raised in a diverse community of experience. The books that make up Plorkology are reared by the tryers—the ones that do what they want and they want to nurture process. If life is actually about the climb rather than reaching the top, a stack of 150 hardbacks is a hell of a mountain.