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 Judith Krummeck, a student in her final year of the UB MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts.
There is something vividly exciting about the process of producing a play. A disparate group arrives at the first read-through with nothing but a concept in the director’s head, some words on a page, and a few mock up designs. By the end of the rehearsal period, there is a three dimensional piece of theatre that has the power to move an audience to tears and laughter.
I’ve been thinking about this as we’ve been gradually bringing Plorkology to life. The concept was in Meredith’s head; the words on the page came from candidates in the MFA program; Mychael took the lead on design; and after three months of printing, cutting, folding, gluing, sewing and binding, we have a set of gorgeous, multi-colored anthologies that we can hold and turn over and over in our hands in wonder.
There are so many things about each book to wonder at: the surprising weight of it, even though it is only 4½ x 5¾, the slightly rough texture of the jewel colored book cloths, the feel of the indentation under your fingertip as you trace the Plork design on the front cover, the delicate chain of Coptic binding that holds the signatures and the covers together. Then, as you begin to page through the book, there are the bright pops of color of the titling and the binding thread, and the intoxicating smell that is redolent of citrus and leather.
It’s this intensely sensual experience that makes me have an ongoing love affair with books. With Plorkology that experience goes even further because I know that many hands – male and female, left-handed and right-handed, younger and older, experienced and those steadily gaining in confidence – have touched every part of every book. In an ever-evolving cycle, someone has collated the pages, another has folded the signatures, yet another has punched holes for the binding, someone else has cut and glued the mix-and-match book cloths to the book boards, and a small army has poured their concentration into the intricate Coptic stitching that binds each book.
Having done my share of collating, folding, punching, gluing and poring over Coptic stitching, I feel as if I am carrying on an age-old craft. It’s as if we have been reaching back to continue a conversation with those medieval monks who collated, folded, punched and stitched in much the same way, also in teams and over weeks and months, to transform a concept into a wondrous, tangible book. And to me, that continuity is as important as carrying on the traditions of story telling and music making.
What this whole experience means is that I know that I am going to look at books differently now. I’ll want to examine the way the content is married to the design and layout, and the choices that were made about the feel and texture of the pages and covers. I’ll be fascinated by the front matter and the back matter, not to mention the colophon, which I knew nothing about a year ago. The best part is that now that I’ve watched Meredith leading us systematically from one stage to the next through all the logistics involved – from the concept, selection, editing and design to the physical production of the anthologies – what had once seemed like the impenetrably daunting process of the publishing world has opened up and revealed itself to be not only possible, but thrillingly so. That moment of tying the final thread of the Coptic binding, flipping through the pages to check that everything is as it should be and then holding the finished book in your hands is as vividly exciting as anything I have ever done.