Monday, October 24, 2016

Springback binding, Moby Dick, Jane Austen and a "broken" Bible


My T-shirt from Wonder Book says on the back, “If there were no books, there would be no Moby Dick.” Melville’s classic makes an appearance in my novel.

   Book artist Karen Hanmer shepherded 10 of us through a challenging two-day springback binding workshop in the Folger Shakespeare Library's conservation lab two weekends ago. This past Saturday, I attended an American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Virginia. Both of these events confirmed my commitment to meld bookbinding with novel-writing. (See 2014 post: “Bible Repair and Novel Writing Make a Mess.”)
    My novel-in-progress, The Broken Bible, is the first in a series featuring a bookbinder who solves mysteries. A “book-breaker” is a person who takes apart books (of prints, say) in order to sell individual pages. A book-breaker is considered a villain by bibliophiles. (“He breaks books! He’s scum!” is a direct quote from someone I know.) The conflicts unleashed in my novel by the discovery of a page from a “broken” 1526 Tyndale New Testament lead to broken hearts—and broken commandments.
    The restoration of an antique ledger—a Cemetery Book with a springback binding—is a plot point in The Broken Bible, so I was thrilled to take Karen’s class. She is a generous and skillful instructor and binder. The Folger lab is new and modern. What a privilege to work there for two days! We brought our own tools and used their heavy equipment (the board shear and book presses). I enjoyed the weekend fusion of my blue-collar book world (I’m a book wrangler at Wonder Book, a giant used-book store) with the rarefied environment of book conservators who handle Shakespeare First Folios.
    By the way, I recommend the current Folger exhibit, “Will and Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity” ( For those who have seen the 1996 A&E “Pride and Prejudice,” Colin Firth’s shirt is on prominent display. Another case contains works that satirize Shakespeare and Austen, including Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”
    The ACFW Conference imparted instruction, vision, and motivation for editing my novel and writing a first draft of the next in the series . I am grateful to author Jan Elder, who leads my writer’s group, for the ride, the encouragement, and the fellowship (along with Steve Baer, a member of the group). When I told one of the organizers that the conference gave me more than my money’s worth, she said that was their goal.

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