Hardcover Haiku

I started to post this Sunday night, but whenever I added an image to my blog, WordPress seemed to just drop it willy-nilly where ever, and my blog post looked so disorganized and slovenly, I couldn’t in good conscience go live with it. My intention was to post a step-by-step look at how I made my hardcover Haiku Love book, but I also wanted you to be able to follow along, Dear Reader. I had to conduct a few hours of research in order to bring you this blog. Hopefully, my newfound skill with HTML tables will be sufficient to show you how I made my book.

book_nans_hands final cover done
TLW reading Haiku Love The finished front cover

The first step in the process is printing out the poems. Sometimes, when I have plenty of time and lots of patience, I hand stamp the poems. But today I had neither time nor patience, and I wanted the book to look a bit more polished, so I decided to print it out on some Arches watercolor paper. I had already done the layout in Word last weekend before I uploaded it to KDP, so I just needed to cut out the paper to 4×6 inches and load up the printer tray.

After printing out page 1 and 2 back to back, I realized I was going to need to adjust the margins so that the odd numbered pages had a one inch margin on the left and the even pages had a one inch margin on the right, if I wanted to print on both sides.

intropage pages1

I printed all of the odd pages first, with a wide left margin, then flipped the paper over in the printer, adjusted the margins for a wide right margin, and printed all of the even pages. Amazingly, it worked! All of the pages came out in the right order and right side up. I was ready to start working on the cover.

bookboard1 paintbookboard
I cut out the book board I paint the book board

While the paint dried, I got out my carved blocks and ink so I could make some more prints of the Cheiko Rei symbol to glue to the book cover so it more closely resembled the cover on the ebook version. I really only needed one print, but it’s not easy to ink up the brayer for just one print, so I made a few.

ink2 stampandink
prestamp many stamps

While the paint and ink dried for the cover, I turned my attention back to the pages and the binding. Bindings are always tricky–I prefer to make books with actual covers that open and attach to the pages, but this is not easy with handmade books. I decided to do a combination: a Japanese stab binding to keep the pages together initially, that I would then combine with a screwed down cover. In order for the cover to open, I needed to use book paper to attach the parts of the cover. But first, I had to make the holes in the pages for the stab binding.

awl holes
I use an awl and a rubber mallet Clamps keep the pages in place
stitched2 stiched
I use the book press to hold the pages I tie off the binding with a square knot 

Now it is time to assemble all of the pieces. I use rubber stamps and archival dye ink to stamp the title and my name onto the cover, and I use rubber cement to attach the book paper to the cover. My friend Susie the art teacher taught me how to properly apply rubber cement–maybe everyone knows this, but I didn’t. First I coat both surfaces with the glue, let it dry and THEN press the pieces together for a tight adhesion. I have to be very careful to make sure everything is aligned before pressing it all down, though.

early cover cover with binding
I end up having to paint over my name
as I’ve not left enough room on the left
for the book paper.
Below, end paper makes it look more finished
I add a touch of red paint to break up
the unrelenting black
inside cover

I wish I had more pictures of my process. I get so wrapped up in the process, in the creative problem-solving as I go along, that I forget to stop and document what I’m doing. The final step is a bit unorthodox, but effective for my needs. I align the previously bound pages between the covers, clamp it down (using scrap book board to protect the cover from the clamps and to make for clean holes), and drill two holes for the screws I will use to finish the binding process. I love the way the screws look on the binding.

final cover done back of book
The front cover The back cover–sadly I inadvertently
flipped the cover before I drilled and
ended up with the inside being out and
with the much nicer outside being in.
Always check your work!

I was pretty happy with the way this turned out–but, always the perfectionist, I printed out two more sets of pages yesterday and built another cover. It turned out okay, but still is a long way from the finished product I have in my imagination. The paper I used in this version is really too stiff for the binding I started out trying to use, so I had to improvise. I ended up drilling holes that I then couldn’t use and had to cut off. I had to abandon my original cover idea and ended up with this three-ring improvisation. It’s not great, but for the stiff paper, it works. Stay tuned for further versions (and more documentation).

two haiku books second haiku book 1
second haiku book 2 second haiku book 3

B is for Bookmaking

I remember buying Hand Bookbinding: A Manual of Instruction over 25 years ago (1988, the receipt is still in the book). I was fresh out of college and enamored of fine books—books that harkened back to earlier times, pre-mass market paperbacks, back to when the making of the book was as much an art as the writing of the book. While manual presented concepts beyond my comprehension, the precise line drawings and the very idea that I could make a book awakened a yearning in me.blue_yellow_box1

I dreamed of making books even if the tools and the concepts were complicated, beyond the realm of my experience: book presses and folding bones, book tape, book thread. I couldn’t even imagine where I would find these items. Still, I kept the book, cracking it open occasionally to remind myself that someday I’d figure it out.

blue_yellow_accordion.jpgLooking back, I believe I viewed making books as an alternative way in to writing, a side door. I wanted to be a writer, having recently graduated with a Master’s degree in creative writing, yet I didn’t quite trust (myself? Anyone?) enough to put my words on the page. Bookmaking became a surrogate, related to books and writing but not writing. I wanted to write, but writing scared me.

So, I made empty books. I created journals for others to write in, burying my own writing dreams deep while I busied myself earning a living and crafting a career that would pay better than (not) writing. I became, for a while, the technology director for a Catholic elementary school. One day, having befriended the school’s art teacher, I took one of my handmade books in to show her. She wasn’t impressed.  So what, she said. Where’s the art? All you’ve done is cover some cardboard with pretty paper.madbk11

I stared at the book in my hands and realized she was right—I wasn’t making art any more than I was writing. Where’s the color on your pages, the art teacher asked. Where’s the risk?baby_book1

That was the whole point, I told her. I didn’t want to make a mess. I liked the pristine white pages, the straight lines, the perfect edges. Paint it, she commanded. Put something of yourself into it.  So, when I made my nephew, a skateboarder, a foldout book full of pictures of him skating, I thought I had answered her challenge:

liam6There’s no mess there, she said. Be bold. Be brave. But I couldn’t, not yet. I gave him a book that was very cool in concept, but still boring and dry.


I did better when I made the same type of book for my niece, a dancer. This time, I got messy and creative. I had to start over and paint over my messes. And things rolled from there. I became more inventive, more willing to make a mess and take risks.

A funny thing happened in the process—I started writing. I signed up for a screen writing class, and then a nine-month novel writing class, and the following fall quarter, a nine-month memoir writing class.

My bookmaking has improvedmadeline_purple_1, as has my writing—creativity breeds creativity, I think. As I take a risk in one area, it feels safer to risk in the other. I’ve been more willing though to be experimental with the book making, more staid and conservative in the book writing. Whenever I feel stuck with my writing, I can turn to the book making—and it’s no longer just books.

photo 1-1

Making books led me to learn how to make stamps, how to carve my own designs into a block, how to use ink and a roller to transfer the image onto whatever paper I wanted. I’ve made prayer flags for writers, books for friends and poets, for my kids, for my sweetie. I’ve made a game board for myself—Pamopoly—when I was feeling extremely stuck and creatively challenged in my writing. I’ve made art prints and pop up books whenever I am betwixt and between writing projects.pamopoly 2inrix

I’ve continued to write and to make books, though I’ve not yet combined the two. Perhaps that is next. After all, I have all of these haikus just hanging around.









When Words Fail Me: My Writing, My Wedding

Sometimes the pressure to write builds up inside of me and it is so huge that I feel like I am going to explode. Someday The Little Woman may come home to find bits of me all over the house, word bits, words that built up and couldn’t find their way out of me. There will be a preponderance of prepositions and a truckload of nouns, verb carnage all over the kitchen, and gerunds on the ground (hey, that rhymed!). Adverbs and those nasty words that end in –ly will litter the walls, pronouns and random punctuation marks will be sprayed around.
Too often, these words don’t find an outlet. Instead I spin and dither. I find other ways to expend the energy inside, activities that seem less arduous than sitting down and grinding out sentences. This week, for example, I’ve set up the art table and started making things: prayer flags with my own twist and boxes to put the prayer flags in. I love making these boxes—I’ve been making books (books is a broad term, in book making, just about any form of art with words) for a number of years, and now for every book I make, I create a box in which to stow it. The timing is good, for making things. I can justify my projects as Christmas presents. These projects are my safety valve, the overflow, where the dangerous steam can spill without harming anything. Still, it is not writing.
And it’s not like I don’t have things to write about. I got married this weekend. I feel like I should be writing something about that.  We had a small and lovely ceremony with our daughters and good friends in attendance. My longtime friend Laura officiated, my friend and writing buddy Jolene took pictures (she’s good, check out her page). Our vows reflected the tenure of our relationship, sturdy vows, hard won truths reflecting our accrued wisdom. Mature vows from which the dewy innocence has been shaken, vows with wonder and tenderness and love.
TLW (aka SugarMama) and I have  been together for more than thirteen years. We had a silly ceremony ten years ago, and became registered domestic partners about five years ago. None of that was enough in the end however, for me to retain my health insurance benefits with her company. I proposed to her last Christmas not long after Washington State enacted its same sex marriage law. And yes, we gays fought to get married so we could have benefits, but I felt a little irritated rushing our ceremony in to beat a deadline. We were caught between her company’s end of the year deadline and the one that comes in June of next year that says the state will roll our domestic partnership into a marriage if we don’t act first.
(Yes, we had a year to make plans and do the deed. We need not have rushed, but all excuses and reasons aside, that is what happened, so don’t judge me, Dear Reader, just read on, quietly and without comment).
Family: Anna, Nancy, Pam, Taylor
I’ve run out of words. So here are some photos instead and a copy of the poem I wrote for my wife (wow, my WIFE! There’s something I didn’t think I’d ever be saying in this lifetime, forever ending the dilemma of what to call her: significant other, TLW (always), partner, girl friend, spouse, better half, my uhm friend special friend, the boss, etc).
Our rings–mine is the sapphire.
Shout out to Jolene Hanson, photographer
Nancy, You are my anchor

The harbor in the sea

The home from which I can journey
The door that will always be open
I rise and when I fall
You lift me up
Our bodies entwine
Rising up from our bellies
I’ve held my breath all these years
And now with you
I can exhale
I offer you myself
A safe harbor in the sea
A home with heart and fire
A door that is always open
When you rise I will cheer
Hitched! At last.
And if you fall, I lift you up
Our bodies entwine and
Rise up from our bellies
We breathe in as one
And now that we are home together
I can exhale
The circle of this ring continues forever,

As does my love for you.    

My Distractions:

Well, That’s A Lot of Words!

This is my first actual week of being a stay at home writer (SAHW, as opposed to a SAHM—an acronym I learned just this morning). I’ve been thinking about writing a lot these past four weeks, but this is my first week at home since I quit my job at the end of July. I’ve been busy flitting about the countryside. And doing other creative things in an attempt to jump start my writing. I made this linocut thingy last night, dabbling in some of my favorite subjects: religion and psychopharmaceuticals.

INRIRX (copyright Pamela Helberg)
In anticipation and in spite of staying up really late working on whatever this is (I’ve titled in INRI RX), I woke up at five this morning, ready to go. But my eyes were gritty and I couldn’t concentrate, so I tweaked my platform a bit (i.e. I monitored Twitter), played some Gin Rummy on my phone, and gave it another shot closer to 8 a.m.  I got a good four hours of work in, a couple thousand words. But, man, it was a slog.
There’s this thing that happens when I write—I tend to get all Hemingway-esque (or so I’m told) and scrimp on the details. When I am sitting there, trying to tap into my feelings, trying to fill in descriptions (of people, the landscape, the room, my state of mind) I think to myself “well, that’s a lot of words. Who would want to read that much about me or what I think?” It’s so hard, this telling of my story, trying to figure out what people need to know, what they don’t. What makes for an interesting tale as opposed to what has actually happened to me. So, I’ve been practicing just writing it all down, every little detail, as much as I can remember, regardless of how personal, how minute. I figure what the hell, at least I’ll have some material to work with.
I pulled out my notes from a few months ago, from when my writing group critiqued this chapter, the one I’m currently working on. Nearly to a person, my writing buddies all said basically the same thing: that it is really three chapters, not one. This is not 15 pages, more like 50 pages.
So I started grinding out the details the best I could this morning, trying to get my first 100 pages reworked in order to send it out to a prospective agent, and a funny thing happened. This huge thematic thread just opened up, burst forth so unexpectedly I nearly wept.
I was just writing along, trying to make my undergraduate years sound somewhat intriguing, getting the words out there knowing that I could go back and add some shape later. That nagging voice (on one shoulder) was nattering away at me the whole time: “who cares that you were an English major? Who cares that you loved your 19th Century Poetry instructor? Why are you writing that? That’s so stoopit!”
On my other shoulder was this guy: “You were so ignorant then. You really wasted your life. What a shame. Too bad you didn’t get it together sooner. Think of what you could have accomplished.” I shoved them both to the background and continued on, writing (inexplicably really, since I haven’t ever written about this) about my English classes, and I came to Victorian Lit and Jude the Obscureand Dr. Meredith Cary, professor extraordinaire.
Jude Fawley. Sue Bridehead. Scholarship. Religion. Sex. Illicit relationships. Depression. I mean, OH MY GOD! Could my muse have whacked me upside the head any harder?
So this is why we sit our butts in the chair and try to quiet those damn voices, for moments like these, when we have all these impossibly unrelated events and plot points and suddenly it all starts to make sense, to coalesce.
(I can’t believe it took me this long to figure it out. Think how much further along I’d be if I’d done it sooner.)