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We’ve left it open for you, so you don’t even need one of those little keys. Because writing is life, and keeping it real means forgoing the line between the personal and the professional.

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The BA Band: Lisa Tener

We’re excited to share that friend of Book Architecture and industry stalwart, Lisa Tener, has launched her new book, The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day.

When the Covid pandemic hit, Lisa’s personal journaling practice expanded as she threw herself into the pursuit with renewed vigor. Her daily writings infused the otherwise largely challenging time with beauty as she experienced rich inner growth and tapped into a new source of free-flowing creativity.

Having rediscovered the power of journaling for herself, both as a healthy processing mechanism in hard times as well as a gateway to previously inaccessible creativity, Lisa felt compelled to spread the wealth. Today, September 22, the fruit of that labor is being presented to the world; a resource created to uplift, spark creativity, and help guide readers towards fulfillment.

The Joy of Writing Journal contains creative and multifaceted prompts to helps users’ get their thoughts onto the page, whether in the form of a blog post, short story, poem, essay, book, or simply as a means to have fun and learn more about themselves. Better yet, the journal is interactive, containing QR codes which, when scanned, link to video and audio-based guidance and inspiration from other writers.

It has been a pleasure to witness Lisa pour her heart into this book, driven by a clear passion to equip others looking to access joy through their creativity with the tools to do so. The journal captures some of Lisa’s most valuable writing advice in a concise, innovative, and fun format. Sound up your alley? Ours too! Grab yourself a copy of The Joy of Writing Journal here

Clients Crushin’ It: Beth Monaghan & InkHouse

Madison Utley speaks to InkHouse PR founder & CEO Beth Monaghan following the release of Aren’t We Lucky? — the company’s second collection of employee-authored stories, and fourth content project supported by Book Architecture. 

Q: How did you arrive at the idea of creating a company book, and why did it seem like the most fitting way to deepen the culture you’ve been cultivating at InkHouse?

A: The books evolved out of the Inkies, a Moth or TED Talk style event we used to do with Book Architecture. We wanted to design a creative outlet for our people to hone their skills in storytelling, writing, and presenting — things we do for a living. But at the first Inkies at the Old South Church in Boston, something magical happened: we all felt so much more deeply connected, including the people who didn’t present. 

My sole regret was that we only got to hear five or so people’s stories. A live event naturally constrains the number of participants. Plus, there’s that heart-stopping fear of spilling your guts in front of coworkers with no notes to guide you. So the first book of essays was hatched. I was expecting ten to fifteen essay submissions, but we got 44! 

Q: What about the experience of creating the first collection of essays, Hindsight 2020, encouraged you to produce Aren’t We Lucky?

I watched Hindsight 2020 change our people, and it also changed me. Who doesn’t want to do that again? In the fall of 2019, I set aside three days to read all of the Hindsight 2020 submissions. Candidly, I was expecting to have to haul myself through them, but as I read, I was swept up. 

Those essays shed my previously unconscious belief that the best stories are at the library or at the bookstore. They’re not. You just need to ask the person sitting next to you, but we rarely do. And I thought — this is how we get to understand each other and draw nearer. This is how community forms. It also helped that so many InkHouse people told me it was their favorite event of the year.

Q: On the employee side, writing a personal essay knowing it will be disseminated to your coworkers and beyond requires emotional vulnerability and, frankly, a specific kind of hard work. Yet it seems that the InkHouse team has been thrilled to embrace the challenge many times over. Why do you think that is?

I believe that each of us have a few stories we’ve been burning to tell. The telling gives us a chance to be seen in an environment that’s rooting for you. But it’s freaking terrifying. I can feel the presenters’ nerves each time. Hell, I’m nervous! Then I see them become their whole selves as they read their work. And then their co-workers are crying or laughing and clapping. The look of pride on their faces is something I will always carry with me.

Q: From the leadership side, it seems that significant company resources must go into large-scale culture building initiatives such as these books. Why is that worth it?

A: When people ask me what I like most about my job, I always say it’s these projects. I feel slightly embarrassed every time—I should say PR because that’s what pays the bills. But these efforts are part of how we build understanding and community. Without both of those things, the PR work doesn’t get done well. 

We have more than 130 people who work here and it’s so hard for me to get to know each one individually. Projects such as these allow me to get to know so many of our people in a way no work assignment can. It helps me understand them as human beings, which helps me better know what our workplace needs. 

Q: Beyond the baseline benefit of making employees’ day to day lives tolerable, why does investing in a workplace culture that allows people to be their best and truest selves matter? And what is the value of capturing that in book form? 

A: I’ve spent many years fighting for social justice around gender and race. The problems are so big that it can feel like nothing we do is enough to solve them. And it’s not. However, if we do the thing that’s right in front of us, and then the next thing, and then the next, we can collectively begin to make change.

As I see it, part of my responsibility to that change is creating a workplace that values differences in the creative process at work. This requires us to welcome employees as they are. We can’t do that if we don’t understand each other. We have to actually talk. Our books are the most important way we do that at InkHouse. 

Know What Draft You’re In

This post originally appeared on the San Francisco Writers Conference site.

 

Instinctively, we know that every draft is different. In the first draft, we can’t really be held responsible for the exact quality of what we produce; we just got here, ourselves. We are just trying to cover the ground. In the second draft, we might be learning the ropes a bit more. We can say what the better stuff is that we are trying to bring up another level. By the third draft, we are ready to polish, decide, and hopefully finish something.

 

On that we can likely agree. We can also likely agree that writing is more complex than 1, 2, 3. In this paragraph, for example, there are—at this moment—sentences that were written in the first, second, and third drafts of this blog coexisting next to each other. The ones in third draft form I should likely leave alone. The ones in first draft form need the most attention. Revision is about knowing what you want to work on, in part by knowing what you don’t need to work on.

Let’s say that you are writing a memoir. Your beta readers demand a new through-line, one that will really explain why you are so fucked up. No more trying to save anyone, including yourself. And you agree—but everything else is so…done. What then?

Asking for a friend. That was me, obviously, planting new seeds in a forest where the entire canopy felt taken. How to grow these seedlings up first, and then transplant from cup to pot, and finally to the memoir text itself when they were well developed enough to take care of themselves? I started by writing out the new scenes in longhand in a journal. Nothing could escape from there unless it had explicit permission, in the form of passages being photocopied and cut up, to then be typed in their own word documents.

Know what draft you’re in. That’s the simple message. And be fair to the earlier drafts. I have two children, aged 15 and 22. Just because I can’t expect the same things from my 15 year-old — like driving, or always remembering to Venmo request me for the money I owe her — doesn’t mean her essence isn’t as wonderful. Or that she won’t get there. She will, through encouragement, and patience, and time.

You can’t rush a good idea. But you can know where present material falls in your overall process. If it is first draft material, you can try it out, get the feel, make a start, and find your stride. If it is second draft material, you can take some new opportunities, go where the work needs your attention, and go further, break through. And if it is third draft material, you can come from the strength of what has worked, culminate matters, and trust yourself enough to let it go.

Because now you have the wisdom to know the difference.

The BA Band: Molly Regan

 

Madison Utley speaks to Book Architecture’s favorite graphic designer, Molly Regan, about how she expanded into book design, the process of creating the cover for Stuart’s second and third books on writing, and the best and most challenging parts of working with authors. 

 

Q: Talk to me about what it is you do/the scope of your services within the book sphere. 

A: My main jam is logos and branding, but I also do a lot with brochures, posters, packaging, and signage. Stuart was my gateway to book cover design, which was something I’d always wanted to try. When I first did a cover for one of his clients, I realized it was really just poster design, but on a smaller scale. It can be hard to make a cover compelling enough that people pick the book up, while keeping all of the info legible, especially if there’s a big title and/or longer subtitle, but I’ve found I really enjoy the challenge of a tinier canvas. 

I also expanded into interior graphics for books. Trying to make charts and graphs interesting can be really fun. I especially like infographics. Right now, I’m actually working on some “loose illustrations” for a glossary of terms, and I will admit it’s challenging! I’m not really an illustrator, but it feels good to exercise different creative muscles. 

 

 

Q: How did you first get connected to Stuart? 

A: Alright, well, this is a little embarrassing. I had an old college project/poster listed on Craigslist, that I really thought someone would buy only for the frame. The poster featured some 1950s Olivetti typewriter ad graphics, which is how Stuart came across the listing as he’s a big typewriter collector. Anyway, he ended up buying it! And, some time after that, he contacted me to do a book cover… Craiglist unites!

 

Q: Tell me about the process of creating the covers for Stuart’s second and third book. 

A: They were both super fun projects. Stuart’s second book was my introduction to the Book Architecture method – the series, grids, rearranging scenes, etc. In our meeting, I remember him saying he was imagining something Mondrian-esque, which really complemented the grid process outlined in the book. It came together pretty organically; just playing with forms, sort of ‘painting’ in shapes. We both felt good about the cover we came up with. It’s geometric, but also lively.

For his third book, my initial designs were too tame and not the vibe Stuart was going for. With his input, I turned towards more of a comic-book style – which provided a good framework for featuring stills from the stop-motion videos that were released in tandem with the written book (!). It was the right look for the tone of this book, and definitely more fun.

 

Q: How do you go about figuring out a client’s vision and getting it down onto the page?

A: When a client comes to me with a clear idea that they’re already set on, I accept that brainstorming is off the table and instead focus on making a good design out of what it is they want. When they’re more open, I’ll shoot around ideas of what I think they might want or need and, if they connect with something, I’ll run with it. It’s always fun when a word or doodle I come up with during a meeting or from the notes I keep becomes the driving force of a project.

 

Q: How does the process change when working with a hard-to-please client?

A: It is sort of heartbreaking when you present a good idea and the client passes, especially when their reasoning is unclear. It’s rare, but there are times when you have to let go of any creative input and instead simply become the facilitator of your client’s vision. I think of those projects as ‘work-work’ and not fun work. That kind of work will definitely never see the light of day in my portfolio, and that’s okay.