I really wanted to give to my grown up children a gift like no other: stories of our family they could share with their children – a legacy to my grandchildren.
The bright spark of an idea came to me in a flash three months before Christmas. I’d write a recipe book as a surprise and gift it to them for the Festive Season. But how to whip up a batch of family favourites and a collection of anecdotes in time seemed total fantasy.
Collaboration – two chefs are better than one
In October 2012, I raced over to share my basket of thoughts with Bee Williamson, friend, visual artist and book designer. She loved the heritage cookbook concept and jumped at the challenge.
With a big ‘high-5’, she said, ‘We can do it, girlfriend!’
Great. All I had to do now was pull apart the bookshelves to find the recipes hiding in old school books and recipe folders, thump furiously on the keys of my laptop and type up 55 recipes and 12 short stories.
With the aid of my robotic screen-reading software for the blind, I could hear it all making some sort of sense, and sent manic instructions across cyberspace to Bee.
Rounding up Helper-elves
Two helper-elves had to be sworn to secrecy – there would be no other way to produce such a quality book without their invaluable expertise and loving support.
Brian Steel, my father, often worked well into the night to edit and correct the short stories as they flew across the internet and like magic, in the early morning, there they would be, all neat and tidy ready in my inbox.
Harry Williamson, computer-wizard and ever-ready helper, gave up many hours to attend to my frenetic demands for photos to be scanned and cropped. Some required his visual attention (and to ensure none of the photos I had chosen contained any little people in their birthday suits).
Even though my helper-elves were right on the job, they were none the wiser when it came to knowing how the book was all coming together.
An Eye and an Ear for Detail
With Bee’s artistic eye for colour and design, coupled with my keen sense of hearing to keep track of text detail and her audio guidance through the pages on the screen, we had to be clear and precise in the use of our design language.
Bee was patient and accurate with every page – allowing my imagination to picture the pages when it was all too blurry to see.
Most days, I sat with a bright overhead lamp and peered through a magnifying glass to read out loud the edits and changes required as I worked slowly through the proof reading for several drafts. My internal critic was concerned about the use of commas, full-stops, indents and correct spelling.
At the same time Bee clicked through the pages on screen to make sure the design, fonts and photos were visually pleasing.
To Gloss or Not to Gloss
On the very day we had set aside as our deadline, all the files were ready.
Cover and back page, check. Copyright page, check. Quotes, check. Titles, check – all looking good until Bee stopped to ask one final question,
‘Do you want the pages to be printed on matt paper or on gloss?’
Sitting perched on the edge of my chair, seconds away from pushing the one very important button, ‘publish now’ – I felt a rush of panic, indecision, confusion as this final choice was a visual one.
Bee sat calmly (although I did hear the occasional nibble of fingernails) as she offered advice on the pros and cons for either choice.
One phone call to a helper-elf,
‘Gloss.’ Harry had no doubt.
‘Great. Done. Love you!’
Bee and I took a deep breath, holding hands briefly. Seconds later, the message read,
CONGRATULATIONS. YOUR PUBLICATION HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL.
I think our squeals of delight were heard all the way down the street.
My Mother’s Harvest : a collection of family recipes & short stories
Bee Williamson Visual Artist & Book Designer
Have you got a story behind the scenes of your book too? Please leave your comments…
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© 2017 Maribel Steel
Photography © 2017 Harry Williamson/Springstudio