With the book that is not my book — but feels like it is


Every writer dreams of the day they’ll hold their book — a real, tangible thing — in their slick, excited palms. We peer at the typeface; run a finger over the shiny, beautiful cover. We probably don’t crack the story open because, you know — it’s too late for changes.

But we hold it. Admire it. Show it to friends, family, strangers in bookstores. We sign copies and send them to buddies.

And that’s where I am now.

Only it’s not my book.

It’s Michael Kardos’. One Last Good Time, a new collection of short stories set in a fictional Jersey beach town, was just released from Press 53 — and that’s my Ferris wheel on the cover.

When I received an email from Kevin, the publisher, about my Ferris wheel photo last fall, I was surprised — and excited. As with all opportunities that arrive via email, my initial reserve was up; you just never know with people. But it soon became obvious the offer was legit, and my photo — which Kevin found via a Flickr search (see, Flickr works!) — is now Michael’s cover photo.

Grinning like a fool, I tore open the package from Press 53 on Thursday morning and immediately slid a copy of the book into my purse. I’ve been carrying it around everywhere since, flashing my headshot and bio in the back when called upon. I asked Spencer to take a series of photos of me holding One Last Good Time, which is probably really narcissistic — but I was thrilled.

That photo is one of just three I shot last spring while walking into a mall. Out shopping with my boyfriend and mom, we parked near a carnival that travels through our town periodically on our way into JCPenney. The bright blue sky was what really captured my attention; I love finding “blank space,” as I mentioned in November. I took three pictures with my point-and-shoot camera, uploaded them and promptly went about my business. Kevin found the photo months later.

You never know where a random shot will lead you.

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It’s the friends you can call at 3 a.m. AND buy postcards that matter

When I met my good friend Erin for dinner on Monday, I noticed the square-shaped, impeccably wrapped present sitting on our table at Panera and thought, Book? Like recognizing the iconic Barbie-shaped box when you were a kid, I can spot a book-shaped gift a mile away.

Well, it was a book — but not the kind I’m used to. With a squeal, I unveiled Postcards From Penguin: One Hundred Book Covers In One Box — and, if I’m being honest, it’s probably the most perfect gift for me. Ever.

Erin and I have been friends for a very long time — like, I-was-14-and-an-unequivocal-hot-mess long time. She’s seen me caked with mascara, face running with tears, but also bobbed with me in poodle skirts for our high school’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” We’ve survived the madness of high school, college and the “real world” (part of it) together, and stayed friends as we morphed from teens to young adults to grown women trying to Figure It Out. She knows my secret crushes and deepest fears, and I can share with her anything. And everything. And everything that comes between anything and everything.

In an age when friendships come and go based on jobs, school and proximity, I know that Erin will always be a treasured co-conspirator and ally — a woman I’d trust with my life. She’s getting married in September and I’m teary-eyed just thinking about it. We took a Shakespeare class together in college, and the afternoons when we’d walk to our cars together and talk boys, life and poetry are crystalline and untouchable in my memory. Through every major life change, she’s been at my side — and I hope to always be by hers.

I’m going to be one soggy, frazzled mess of a bridesmaid.

But postcards! This post was supposed to be about postcards. And there I go, getting all sappy and emotional on y’all.

So sayeth Amazon:

This is a collection of 100 postcards, each featuring a different and iconic Penguin book jacket. From classics to crime, here are over seventy years of quintessentially British design in one box. In 1935 Allen Lane stood on a platform at Exeter railway station, looking for a good book for the journey to London. His disappointment at the poor range of paperbacks on offer led him to found Penguin Books. The quality paperback had arrived. Declaring that ‘good design is no more expensive than bad’, Lane was adamant that his Penguin paperbacks should cost no more than a packet of cigarettes, but that they should always look distinctive.

Ever since then, from their original — now world-famous — look featuring three bold horizontal stripes, through many different stylish, inventive and iconic cover designs, Penguin’s paperback jackets have been a constantly evolving part of Britain’s culture. And whether they’re for classics, crime, reference or prize-winning novels, they still follow Allen Lane’s original design mantra. Sometimes, you definitely should judge a book by its cover.

Yes, Penguin. Yes, you should.

I’d love to say that all my bookish friends should soon expect a little something in the mail, but it hurts my heart to think about breaking up my set. I’m thinking about creating some sort of modern art with a selection of my favorites, and maybe keeping the rest handy to look at the pretty whenever I feel like it.

Years ago, my sister bought me a super-awesome collection of original London art on a series of postcards, and I enjoy going through those and lovingly running my fingers over the textured lines from time to time. I won’t send them, and I haven’t framed them, but I like to just . . . know that they’re there.

It’s one of my many endearing quirks.

Look at that gorgeous Ferris wheel and ‘One Last Good Time’

Photography has brought me some pretty exciting experiences. My mom, an avid photographer, introduced me to the art at a young age — and we’ve really enjoyed going out on shoots together over the last few years. She and Dad bought me my first point-and-shoot, a Canon, right after college graduation — and I don’t think I’ve left the house without a camera in my purse since.

Whether through classes or the Calvert Photography Club, an awesome group in Maryland, I’ve loved getting to know other photographers, learning to take better shots and just generally getting out there with my new Rebel. What I take usually winds up on Flickr and is a running visual commentary of my life. I take photos of food: cupcakes, pies, vegetables and steaks. I zoom in close and get buttons, bugs, flowers and wood grain. I shoot events, like the Oyster Festival and Veterans Day parade, and people — like my family, friends and boyfriend. I just take lots of pictures.

And every now and then, someone takes an interest in my work. Last fall I was emailed by a woman in New York City who needed a photo for her piano performance’s program; she found a shot I’d taken of a paper butterfly crafted from musical note paper. I told her she was free to use it (with a photo credit!), and she was thrilled. The end result was beautiful.

A month or so ago, I was contacted by Press 53 about a photo I’d taken of a Ferris wheel at my local fair. At work, I’m always looking for dynamic photos for my sections — and I love laying text over bold, solid colors. So when I’m out and about on my own time, my eye naturally seeks out “blank spaces” — places devoid of prints or objects. I like emptiness. I seek out blue sky. And Press 53 liked one photo, I’ll assume, precisely for that reason.

My Ferris wheel photo is now the book cover for Michael Kardos’ One Last Good Time, a collection of stories set in New Jersey. Due out Feb. 1, 2011, we have a few months before this baby makes its debut — but isn’t it pretty? I’m biased, yes, but I really like it.

The book is up for pre-order now, or check out my official “cover artist” biography! I’m all kinds of excited. And honored. And eager to read about the Jersey Shore through Michael’s eyes.

Cover art: Let’s chow down

I’m not going to dance around the issue here, friends: your girl Meg likes to eat. I come from a long line of very fine folks who enjoy a good meal, I’ll add, and no — that’s not a reference to weight! I mean, we just like food. My grandmother Wilma loads us up on the meaty stuff, piling cabbage rolls and stews on me, while my grandmother Margy provides all the sweets: sugar cookies, white chocolate-covered pretzels and her famous peanut butter cups, most especiallly.

We’re no slackers in my house, either. Brownies and ice cream are usually milling about, and Spencer and I love baking. I’m improving my own culinary skills slowly but steadily, and I’m looking forward to the day I can prepare a whole meal — from scratch. (When I have the time. So, you know, maybe never.)

So it makes sense that, when browsing for books, my eye goes straight to anything featuring a delicious treat. In fact, just the knowledge that a book features food — or a chef, baker, etc. — is enough to entice me to pick it up.

Inspired by Kay’s lovely “Artsy Shelf” posts at The Infinite Shelf, I’ve been keeping my little brown eyes peeled for any cover art that looked so good I would, well, want to take a bite. A giant one. And it just turns out the some of the covers I remember best of the hundreds (thousands?) I’ve seen feature something delectable-looking. And most of the time? Well, as you’ll see, we’re talking cupcakes.

Some of these books I’ve read — and some I haven’t. If they’ve worked their way onto my bookcase or wishlist, it’s probably because I thought they sounded like an appropriate blend of delicious food and awesome storytelling. Here’s to hoping I’m right.


Are you attracted to cover art featuring food? Why or why not?


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Musing Mondays: Misleading covers

musing_mondaysHere’s this week’s question:

Do you feel disappointed when the covers don’t match the story? Have you ever been completely misled by a book cover?

 

Although I’ve been told since elementary school not to judge books by their covers, I have to say that I very often do. If I’m just browsing through novels at a local bookstore, my eye gravitates toward anything bright, sparkly or “girly.” I know that’s terrible, but it’s true! As a devout reader of women’s fiction, I know that the marketing departments of publishing houses have me in mind when they stick a slim, fashionable woman traipsing through the city on their covers. Usually, that’ll wind up on my wishlist — or in my hands!

summer_affairThat being said, many novels seem to have that “chick lit”-type cover . . . with a much more serious message. An example that immediately springs to mind is Elin Hilderband’s A Summer Affair, my beach read from 2008. The cover looks light, summery and fun, right? Well, the story was deep, tackling issues as varied as infidelity, parenthood, bereavement, family dynamics, friendship and lost love, all set against the backdrop of Nantucket. More than a year later, I can clearly remember Hilderbrand’s jaded, complicated characters and intricate plot. None of this was particularly “beachy” or light — but the book was great. Just nothing like I expected.

But I can’t say I was disappointed. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the storylines and the variety of characters we met in the novel. While the cover — and title — made me think I’d grabbed a fluffy tale of, I suppose, “a summer affair,” I got so much more than that.

Generally, I do feel disappointed when covers don’t match their stories — but I’m also elated when covers complement their stories so well, I’m left to wonder at the ingeniousness at the designer. A few of my favorites from recent reading adventures:

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Oh, the Magical Christmas Cat

I came across this book the other day at work over in Romance and I literally burst out laughing. I’m not sure what it is exactly about this cover — the daydreaming cat? the snowglobe? the “magic”? — but I can’t stop chuckling every time I see it! I was trying to describe it to my mom yesterday, but she couldn’t quite grasp the hilarity without seeing it.

Here, grasp:

Now, I should point out in the sake of fairness that I have absolutely no idea what this book is about. I’m sure these authors are quite lovely people — and their stories could be artistic, faceted and enchanting! But this cover. The cover! And The Magical Christmas Cat? Really?