Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of being reacquainted with an old friend. This friend is actually a book, not a person, but whenever I read it I get the same sense of talking with a wise companion who really understands me.
The book is Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, and its premise is simple but revolutionary—art is a gift. It is a gift we give ourselves when we create, and it is a gift we give to others once we make it. In Hyde’s book there is plenty of room for a person to make a living as an artist, but the entire process is still seen through the lens of “the gift.”
As a painter, writer, and book publisher who gives away far more of my work than I sell, I feel a great sense of freedom knowing that art is a gift. And why shouldn’t I? Making books is in my blood, it’s in my bones. It’s something I have to do. Dromedary Press is a calling, not a commodity. I’d felt frustrated by rejection and indifference to my art for so long—what was I doing wrong following my dream and giving it all away? As it turns out, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. According to The Gift, I was doing everything right.
I ordered dozens of copies of The Gift and began sending them to friends far and wide. I wanted to share this new perspective with as many people as possible. And because I knew that I couldn’t be the only artist frustrated by the book publishing process, I decided to turn my newfound insight into a class and accompanying workbook. I’d heard from so many people who had a dream of publishing a children’s book that I designed the class specifically for children’s book publishing, but the lessons in it can be applied to any book project.
Seats filled quickly, and I donated the class fees to a local children’s literacy program. Each of the artists and writers in attendance left with a firm sense of how to guide their own gift—in some cases little more than a wisp of a story—through the long process of becoming a real book they can hold in their hands and give to someone else.
Of course a class can only seat so many people, so until I can teach it again I’m offering copies of the workbook to anyone who dreams of sharing their own gift in book form. Publishing a Children’s Book was developed with Clint Marsh, a published author and my partner at Dromedary Press. The workbook covers the process for making any kind of book you can imagine—hardcover, paperback, pamphlet, even an e-book—whether you want to put it out yourself or send it to another publisher. Every step includes worksheets for personalizing the process to your particular book. As you move through each chapter in the 32-page guide you’ll see your own dream—a real book—coming to fruition.
There is no reason we should feel anything but joy and acceptance when it comes to our art. I believe that each of us innately knows that our artistic life is a gift. It’s easy to deny ourselves this truth, but thankfully a confident reminder from a wise friend is all we need to set us back on our path.
More about Lewis Hyde’s The Gift
More about Publishing a Children's Book