Thursday, September 18, 2008

...and behind door number two...

Just like my dark curls and my chai-colored skin, writing, illustrating and putting books together has been a major part of me. As far back as I can remember (and even before then, since I possess the books from when I was less than five) I wrote, illustrated in crayon, cut and stapled papers into booklets. Before first grade I was gluing my illustrations onto cardboard, laminating them with contact paper, and binding with glue. One book I even cut out a round medallion, colored it gold, and stuck it onto the top right corner of a book I'd made because I'd noticed several of my books had the same medallion on them. It seemed important.

Throughout all of junior high and high school I perfected the art of walking and writing (Plus side: You can write and get your exercise at the same time. Down side: Running into telephone poles.) At this time I was working on my epic horse story Datashen (this is what I'm working on in the photo, taken when I was thirteen. The feet to the side belong to my brother). The number of pages stuffed binder after binder. When I'd finish it, I'd start over again, rewriting it. At the beginning of the story, because it would take several years to write by hand and illustrate, I would have totally different handwriting by the end of it. The start of the story sported large, balloon-like lettering. By the end of the story, my writing got smaller and sharper as I got older. As I flip through the hundreds of pages of these volumes, I watch my handwriting morph, as if on a radical diet, from plump to gaunt strokes, becoming closer to the sharp and scratchy handwriting I have today.

In twelfth grade, when I wasn't doing much talking anymore, I wrote copiously on this book, and in my journals. One day that year, I finished the horse book, and started over one more time. There it changed from the horse story to another story all together. By the time I entered college, the new version didn't have a single horse in sight.

In my early 20s I set about printing this newer book myself. I hand-lettered the drop caps for every chapter. I did the color illustrations. I tried to learn Pagemaker (my computer kept crashing, wiping everything out). I even got to the point where, not able to afford having the pages bound, I decided to bind them myself. The paper stock for the cover had turned out too flimsy—they couldn't get thick paper through the copy-shop color printer—so I laminated each cover with clear contact paper. (At this time there was a stray cat, Ernie, living in the apartment, and with him came a rampant outbreak of fleas. Often I'd laminate a bunch of book covers, only to find fleas caught between the covers and the contact paper covering them.) I roughed up the sides of the pages with a wood rasp and hot glued the covers over the books. Then I'd carry them, ten at a time, down to get their rough edges trimmed away.

So I guess all this is to say, I love making books. It's as if a book doesn't feel finished until I've designed it and bound it myself (much like my beadwork doesn't feel done until every possible surface is covered with beads).

And so it seemed natural that my newest manuscript for taking care of tightly coiled, mixed-race hair would be done the same way. After putting up the website (my mission is to see no more people go through with their hair what I did with mine), I set about learning the typesetting program InDesign, Photoshop, and reading books on how to design the pages and cover. How amazing would it be to hold a book in my hands that I had done entirely myself? Well, if it's a beautiful book, there would be lots to be proud of. If not, I guess the drawback is I wouldn't have the luxury of being able to blame anyone else.

Then something unexpected happened. A real live book agent took an interest in my book. I'd read stories of people having agents. Previously, I felt having one was akin to stumbling upon a unicorn in the woods. Magical if it were to happen, but you might not want to stake all your hopes on finding one. But nevertheless, I have an agent (thanks in a huge part to my editor). And she seems really nice, too. And I feel if the universe is kind enough to give me an amazing opportunity, along the lines of sighting a unicorn, I will honor the universe.

So now I will do my absolute best to put my all into whatever path I end up taking. Whether I create the book myself, or it's done by a publishing company, it will be exciting, and I know I will grow from either. The great thing is that I will be beside myself happy when I finally hold my published book in my hands. Hopefully minus the fleas.


Anonymous said...


You have an agent! I think your sites are wonderful (and so is your hair). Good luck with your book; it took me ages to accept the beauty in my own hair and I am so glad that people with our hair can discover the joy of it all.

From one mushroomed haired sister to another (lol)!

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Thank you so much for your kind words mixie! Your hair is beautiful, and I'm so glad you have learned to enjoy it's loveliness.

=Sophia Loren Marie= said...

I cant wait till your book is out..I just read every word I saw on your website, Ive spent hours upon hours lately( its 5am here and ive been lookin up haircare for mixed hair all night long, then i saw your site and blog), but more so, years upon years trying to figure out what to do with my hair, im mixed as well, my moms thing is to put tons of grease on it (shes black my dads white) everytime she touches my hair she says you need to put some grease in it...haha its horrible. I quit relaxing it regularly and started relaxing it about once a year, then the color...your pics though of your hair before looks exactly like my hair now, and your hair now is exactly how ive always dreamed of my hair being..I cant wait to get your book, the day its out im getting it. I desperately need hair help! so thank you for the site and the basics on there, luckily I just started using pantene relaxed and natural so tomorrow morning im gonna start the techniques you said. (ive always thought the dime size amount was way to small for my super thick hair!! :) thank you so much!!! I cant wait to cut the chemicals out and get goin on this process :) thanks again!!

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Hi =sophia loren marie=:
thank you so much for what you said. Yes, I can't wait until the book is finally out too! Wow, that's pretty rough to have so much grease put on your scalp--that can clog some pores! It does seem like being mixed, we get caught between two extremes of how to handle our hair, and both of them end up hurting our hair. I'm so glad to hear you are thinking about growing out your beautiful natural curls. I know they will be spectacular!

cy said...

Beautiful reflection! Peace/health/radiance.