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Saddle-Stitching Your Booklet with Needle and Thread

7 Jul

Hello, you!

I’m going to pick right up where we left off yesterday with a way to bind your booklet with needle and thread. Though both of the methods I’m showing you are called a saddle-stitch, this way is the genuine item that has just fallen by the wayside. We’re bringing it back, though, right?

So here we go. You still have your paper and cover so let’s fold it together nice and tight to get ready. Now, you should probably buy a big, sturdy needle with a nice-sized eye. For mine, I used a tapestry needle to pierce the card stock and notebook pages. If you can find it, waxed thread is the absolute best for this project. It doesn’t fray, resists tearing on the rough paper, and the knot/bow will last forever. However, if your local craft store doesn’t stock it (and most don’t) just pick a thick thread in a color/style that matches your cover. I had some golden, rope-y thread leftover from the booklet I made this weekend so I’m reusing it again here. Thread your needle and make sure you have some spare trailing. There will a bow or knot in the middle of your binding when all is said and done so also decide if you want that bow on the outside (on the spine) or inside (in the gutter).

Now open your booklet to the very middle page. Nothing else has to be precise but you’ll need to start this process from the middle every time or some of your pages won’t stay in place. Poke your first hole somewhere in the middle. (Note: There are actual hole-pokers available for threading books and they look like little screwdrivers with a sharp point but I haven’t seen them in craft stores and you would probably have to order one. If you’re having trouble with the needle, grab a thimble or use some other way to shield your finger while you push it through. I just used a blanket.)

The picture above starts the hole from the inside and that’s what you want to do if you want your bow on the inside too. If you want it on the outside, poke your hole from the outside in and follow my instructions in the same way, just on the reverse side.

Now pull your thread through and go up and to one side. Make a second hole and pull through.

You don't have to make your holes symmetrical for this method so make it anywhere you like.

For your third hole, go all the way down to the other end and punch through. If you’re following me correctly, this will pull one long thread down the length of the book either on the inside or outside.

Okay, this picture is before it’s pulled tight but it shows you where to poke on the other end from your second hole.When it’s pulled all the way through, it’ll give you that long string in the middle I was talking about.

Now you’re back on the side you didn’t start with and for your fourth and final hole, you’re going to push the needle back through your middle hole and pull tight. So in the end, one side will have the look of one long string and the other will look like two sections interrupted somewhere in the middle.

See? Now you should have two ends of your string coming from the middle hole on the side you started with.

Cut both ends to an appropriate size depending on if you want a bow or knot and just tie them.

And you’re all done! So you’ll have some kind of tie in the middle of your book but on all the other pages, you’ll just see little dents where the string runs through.

And this is actually a pretty sturdy way to bind your booklet and looks infinitely more personal than staples.

Give it a crack! I swear it’s addicting.


DIY: Saddle-Stitching Your Own Booklet

6 Jul

Hi, friends!

I hope everyone had a fun Fourth. The festivities were rained out here but Will and I celebrated his promotion at home with a Lord of the Rings marathon. That’s right. He had a three day weekend so I’m getting a late start on everything this week.

Since I made a booklet for a friend of mine this weekend, I decided it would be fun to share with you a couple ways to make your own. Now, the booklet I made used the text from an excerpt that I formatted using Microsoft Word. Believe it or not, you can create and print your own miniature books from your home and if you’re really interested in that, go watch this video: DIY Booklet Instructions. The only tricky part of this process is figuring out how to print. Unfortunately, not all word programs will put the pages in the correct order for printing and it usually requires a lot of trial and error. (For me, I had to use another program to order the pages correctly and then printed it using a PDF program.) It can be done, though, and Word has a good number of features to help your pages look like a real book. Play around with it. Many books are in the public domain including most classics so using an excerpt is completely legal and can make for cute gifts. (Think Jane Austen love scenes or epic Moby Dick sections.)

Today I’m going to focus on showing you how to bind your booklet. First up, the simple and popular saddle-stitch using staples. For this, I’m just going to use a greeting card and some regular old notebook paper to demonstrate how to make your own adorable notebook.

First, pick a cover and prepare your paper. Covers can be made from a lot of things and as I said, this one is a greeting card. You could also use posters, folders, old album covers (I’ve seen a lot of interesting record covers), or pretty much anything that can be folded and has a decent thickness to it.ย  You should take into account the quality of your stapler in picking the paper too. If you have a standard stapler, pick standard office paper or something pretty thin. If you want to use some kind of card stock but don’t have the right stapler for the job, any copy shop will probably have a nice long-arm stapler you can use.

So let’s cut your paper to size! Remember you want this to fold so you need to use your whole cover to outline your paper size. Like so:


Cut as carefully as you can around the whole outline. If you don’t have a straight edge-cutter, it won’t come out perfectly because as you cut, the paper will shift…unless you want to outline every sheet of paper and cut them individually. Which, uhm, why would you care that much? If it really bothers you that paper is uneven, you can always trim it at the end.

So after the paper is all cut out, fold it in half with the flattest and sharpest fold you can make. Wedge it into your cover’s fold and pinch it in nice and tight.

Almost done.

Now flip it over with the paper down and the cover on top. Try to make sure your paper is still lined up and tight against the cover. Now staple twice. You want them to look kinda symmetrical with one sorta close to each end. Proportionally speaking, You want them both about a quarter of the way in so there’s about half the length of the book between them. Make sense?

I would show you the finished product, but since my stapler is absolutely terrible…I can’t. Instead, I’m going to use the same paper and cover to show you how to saddle stitch with thread and needle. There aren’t any videos on the internet about how to do this (as far as I can tell) so I’m excited to share that with you….but not until tomorrow! ๐Ÿ˜€

Dead Vegetables and More

26 May

I have been super lazy, haven’t I? For a little over a week now, I’ve taken a break from blogging to enjoy what I call a mental vacation. After a few months of semi-continuous posting, I was running out things I felt were worth of writing about and to be honest, I’m still in a bit of an inspiration slump. It doesn’t help that I have a bit of an emotional depression to match but today I’m peeling myself off the couch to start up again.

So to start with: dead vegetables.


Let’s take a moment of silence in honor of the little plants that just couldn’t.

And now I will go on to say that I have no idea why they died. I suspect that hubs didn’t water them while I was away one weekend but otherwise, I don’t have any leads. They were looking promising for about one week and then this. Oh well!

Sometimes bad things happen and you have no idea what you did. I think often there’s no reason at all but I trust that their little plant souls are in soil heaven. We’ll try again next year.

Some happier news? I finished the rough draft of a memoir piece I’ve wanted to write for about a year and it’s now going through the peer review period where I take advice from some other writers about what things need to be tweaked. Some people hate critique but I love it.

My first semester studying creative writing was very hard on me. I couldn’t settle on what story to write, I wasn’t even sure if I had what it takes to interest someone in my writing. Every time I would start something, I’d inevitably go back and delete the entire thing, starting something else. Confidence as a writer can be a hard thing to stumble across. Of all art forms, I would say that writing enjoys the smallest audience so when you get commentary, you have to take it very seriously–both praise and criticism–because the reviewer could make up a significant portion of your readership. My biggest rookie mistake was being too attached to a story going into a workshop. I adored my first short story and when I went into class to discuss it with my peers, I thought it was my best work yet. The reactions from other writers in the room didn’t say the same and it took me awhile to really recover. In that class, we were asked to take the critiques we received and revise the story for our final grade. When I got alone with my story again, though, it was hard for me to see why I should continue with it. Other people’s opinions had completely changed my perspective on my work and instead of taking it with a grain of salt, I was just crushed.

Lots of other artists probably have a similar story, at least the ones who made it past the original mourning stage because some people quit right there. What usually happens after the crying and moping is a hardening process. You learn to love your story all through its creation and then separate yourself emotionally from the work before others see it. You create a balance in your mind between being self-critical and confident. You start to tell yourself that all great things start as small and unworthy and then you let it be molded and shaped by the firm hand of critique. When it’s refined and ready, you send it out again to be judged by the world and expect that plenty of people won’t understand it. Then, every once in a while, you get to see your work find a home and fans who love it. My instructors often compared the feeling to parenthood and I can see it.

Not everything that I start or even finish will turn out to be wonderful and praiseworthy. Some things will dry up for seemingly no reason at all. Still, I come back and try again because I know the next thing will be better because of my failure.

More tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Published Nerd

11 May

Finally, my friends, the story that was accepted for publication has been posted! You can check it out here: Caper Literary Journal.

Mine is the one that says Leona Abbott (my pen name) because this journal lists stories by the author’s name and not their titles. I’m happy to have found a home for one of my stories but I still have a couple more that are ready and need a place of their own. I’m also nearly finished with the first draft of a piece I’ve been wanting to write for a couple years and just didn’t know how to handle.ย  I aim to have this project published in a print journal.

So! I think I can say this won’t be the last. ๐Ÿ™‚

A Writer’s Task: The Maze of Publication

15 Mar

I’m not even sure how interesting this will be to most casual readers, but a couple weeks ago I wrote about how it feels to call yourself a writer and making writing a habit. Today I wanted to take that a small step further and share what my process looks like. And let me warn you, it looks a lot like this:

Really? Yes.

Firstly, I have to tell you I have no ambition whatsoever to write anything book-length right now. I have a terrible time reading conventional books so I really don’t believe myself capable of holding someone’s interest for that long. Instead, I write short stories and creative essays/memoir pieces. Most of you probably never, ever read these types of pieces except in English classes and that’s not unusual. In fact, you would be part of the overwhelming majority of the world’s population if you don’t read them just for fun. I don’t blame you but it does make my explanation tricky.

In the past, short story collections were somewhat popular in the publishing industry. You used to be able to go to the bookstore and find a whole section of anthologies ranging from top notch literature to romances and mysteries. Today, it’s a running joke that the writer of short stories and memoir pieces shouldn’t even dare hope for a collection of their work to be published. At least not anywhere you would see in a major bookstore. For most of us, we’re content to submit to literary journals and (literary) magazines.

What the devil is that?

A literary journal is a publication run by a private organization of writing enthusiasts, mostly university presses. They’re charitable souls who love the lost art of short writing so much that they’re willing to forgo free time and a healthy income to wade through submissions from thousands of writers like me. They come in two forms: the printed journal/magazine and the online journal/magazine.

Usually there is no difference between a journal and a magazine, it’s just an aesthetic choice of words on the editor’s part. Printed journals enjoy the most prestige and editorial clout but online journals are much more accessible.

Even your most popular printed journal is probably something no non-writer has ever heard of because you don’t see them in bookstores or even most public libraries. They’re usually only carried by academic libraries and can be ordered directly or through a subscription. However, I did see a volume of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern pop-up in Books-A-Million one day and I did a little victory dance while I read it on my breaks.

Online journals are equally elusive to non-writers because…how do I put this…if it’s not something you can look for in a bookstore or a library or somehow hold in your hands, most people don’t even think about it. If Stephen King published a book page by page on his blog, I bet it would enjoy significantly less popularity. Of course, I would read it then because, as I mentioned, I don’t have a lot of patience for books, but that’s not true for most people. However, for writers online journals are a wonderful relief and I’ll tell you why.

If I wanted to be published in a print journal:

I’d have to understand that journal’s aesthetic taste first. Each journal, print or online, prides itself in having a unique criteria for the kinds of things they publish. For example, one may like quirky, character-driven and experimental fiction while another may have an editorial tendency toward traditional sonnets. Most print journals will not tell you what they like to publish upfront and this is frustrating but understandable.

When you apply for a job, the company expects you to do the research on what they do and the people who run it. The same applies to being published BUT for writers, especially new writers, this is tough to do. Like I said, you don’t see printed literary journals just everywhere. You have to actively seek them out in a library that may be entirely out of your way or spend money to order a copy or two and see for yourself what they like. This is how printed journals make their money, really. It’s great for them and even though ultimately this research process benefits other writers, it’s not so fun for me.

Online journals are easier:

They have everything you need. For free. Just a click away. If I want to know what they publish, I can look at previous issues from the comfort of my very squishy couch. On top of this, if I were to be published in one, everyone I know could look at it easily and, again, for free. However, there’s very little financial support for this publishing niche. Other writers don’t benefit from this and usually, neither does the journal or the editor. So while there’s a definite upside, in the long run online journals aren’t quite as sustainable.

Also, online journals are sometimes ambiguous in quality. You have to look carefully at an editor’s credentials and read carefully the kind of work they publish because while it takes a significant investment to start a print journal, anyone can start one online. I like to be sure that the work being published is riveting and written by authors with degrees.

So you’ve find the right journal for a certain piece. Now what?

Easily enough, you just send them your work with a brief cover letter that includes a little about you, your educational and writing background, and any previous writing achievements. You may have to re-format or edit down a piece to fit within that publication’s guidelines but that’s easy enough. Many journals have begun accepting submissions online, too. Just a year ago, hardly anyone did this and you had to snail mail your work along with a self-addressed stamped envelope for your reply. Those big print journals we discussed? Most of them still require mailed submissions but online forms are certainly a welcome advance.

There are contests occasionally that can reward up to $5000 and they usually have entry fees of $5-$35. What you have to realize about contests, though, is everyone submits to them. People who have no business submitting anything as well as very popular and skilled writers. Even people who may have been your instructors at some point could be your competition. Your chances of being published through a contest are more than narrow; they’re razor thin. Another downside is they can take up to six months to judge and announce a winner which brings me to another issue: simultaneous submissions.

Simultaneous submission refers to a piece that you’ve sent to and is being considered by multiple publications. In short, every journal has different rules for this and some are more understanding than others. What they’re trying to avoid is publishing the same piece in two places and also wasting their time if it’s been accepted elsewhere and they’re already considering it. Oh, did I mention you only have a piece published once? (Unless you’re having it printed in an anthology but that’s a different story.) Anyway, you just have to follow their rules…or don’t and risk never being considered by that publication again. Sometimes that risk is actually worth it considering how unthinkable it is to have the same piece accepted in two places and also how long it takes to hear back from one publication at a time. Some can keep you waiting for a year. No bueno.

How cool is it to be published?

Well, once you untangle the mess and successfully find a home for something you’ve written…it’s the best feeling in the world. I can only compare the significance of it to a doctor being published in a medical journal. You have to be absolutely wonderful at what you do to be published as an example of great craft and skill. Even if people you run into every day will never understand that feeling or read what you’ve done, you’ll be read by your peers and placed beside writers with more education or time in the field…and that’s always exciting. “Oh? You have an MFA? I have a BFA and I’m just as good as you. Oh? You’ve been doing this for a decade? Three years, right here.”

There’s really no better reward for what is, undeniably, an extreme act of diligence.

So with that, I have to announce that I finally got a piece accepted for publication in an online journal which usually publishes authors who have their MFA’s. (And this is true of pretty much all journals. It’s very hard to get published coming from a BFA level.) So naturally, I’ve been bubbling over with this news for weeks but unfortunately, my story hasn’t been posted yet. I know that’s not fair, but for now just celebrate with me that I’ve accomplished something really big and I will show you as soon as I can. ๐Ÿ™‚

Also, this same piece was rejected by eleven other publications. See what I mean by diligence?

The Allure of Video Games

8 Mar

Today marks the release of one of the most anticipated games of the year, Dragon Age 2. I can’t wait to play and see how the changes in the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time will play out. The developer seems to be aiming for a closer connection to the playable character of Hawke and greater investment in the line of plot development. Knowing that this is the group responsible for the Mass Effect series, I’m excited and reasonably confident in the results. The first had room for improvement but Bioware has a way with progress. I’ll probably give my opinion and review when I’m done with the first play-through.

If you can’t tell, I have a deep appreciation for games and the people who make them. Video games have a place in my heart that is second only to writing and sometimes my time management between the two turns into an epic battle. While writing makes me feel like my true self, video games take me away– making me imagine myself as someone totally different but also finding similarities in unexpected places. Well-executed games often have protagonists that are just as relate-able and memorable as the most famous characters of books and plots that involve the player vicariously through the hero (or anti-hero) you play.

Several games have come out in recent years that force a player to choose if their hero will do good or evil deeds (read: Mass Effect, Fable, Bioshock, Dragon Age, Force Unleashed) and while these decisions do not make a player good or evil, they can bring up interesting scenarios. To use an example from the recent Fable 3: Imagine that you are a king or queen of a country that has absolutely no treasury and needs to add funds to prepare for a cataclysmic war. On one hand, you could turn an old factory into a school house and lose money doing so or you could force the children to work there, making money and also eventually saving lives in the war effort.

I love games because, really, it takes a book experience to the next level. There is usually a main character, a plot, other characters for you to interact and form relationships with, and in the best games, the way you play alters the experience you have. Many game developers have intricate background history to their games such as Halo’s infamous “Bible” which catalogs records of wars, alien races and planets, and famous heroes that players don’t even encounter in the game. For lovers of sci-fi and epic tales like the Lord of the Ring series, games are a natural tangent to reading and can be much like being inside one of their favorite novels.

But how does this happen?

Well, games have been evolving for a very long time and most gamers like me began with games that were simple–things like Mariokart and Zelda– in their childhood. I would say that most kids, especially girls, grow out of video games because as they grow up, the games marketed towards their age group become more serious and involved, taking more time and effort to get through. Many games also become less social as you follow the age correlation because (there’s no nice way to say this) most video games are made for people who have a lot of time on their hands–people who don’t have much of a social life to begin with. In other words, video games for older people are (by and large) made for shy, introverted types. That’s not to say that aren’t gamers who are outgoing with tons of friends (this is even more common among men) but they’re probably not the target audience.

I can’t speak for everyone but in my case, I started to love video games first, because I wanted people to like me, and second, because somewhere along the way I started seeing their potential as forms of art.

First, I have to admit, when I asked for a Super Nintendo at the age of seven, I really only wanted to make the boys in my life jealous. I’d played my brother’s Sega Genesis and my neighbors’ Nintendo Original and knew very well that they would all want to play with me if I had the newest thing. My plan worked because my brother started playing with me and the boys across the street started thinking I was cool so I guess you could say that while I was shy, I definitely had social reasons in mind at the beginning.

As I got older, games evolved with me and I started seeing First Person Shooters and RPG’s coming on the scene. These two types are the most time-consuming but also the most interesting and dynamic. At first, I was very casual in playing these games but around the time that my now-husband deployed, I started putting a lot more time into video games and really fell in love with them. At the time, I had just transferred to a university and didn’t have a ton of friends in the new area. On top of that, I was obviously very sad and needed a lot of distraction. For those long months that Hubs was gone, if I wasn’t doing homework, writing (which was usually part of my homework), or at work, I was playingย  a video game. It was a coping mechanism, but not an unhealthy one. I enjoyed the games I was playing and had people that I played with online. Paired with a few “real world” friends, I really wasn’t too lonely or socially deprived.

This was the time that I also got my dad hooked on gaming. I went home a lot more often back then and when my dad was there, I would have him play Halo with me. I get my love for sci-fi and fantasy from him and he was already an avid fan of the Halo mythology so he barely needed encouraging. After it became a tradition for us, we bought his own Xbox and we started to play online when I was back at school and he was at home. You could say we did a lot of our bonding over virtual bloodshed.

So really, although gamers get a bad rep for being socially awkward geeks, I think there are definitely a lot of virtues to the credit of video games. While putting too much time and energy into them can make you anti-social, games have a way of bonding people through shared experience and fun. There is more of art in their creation than they receive credit for, too. While some games are mindless, most nowadays are being carefully and thoughtfully crafted around intricate characters, plots, and even beautiful environments. Browse the employment or human resources tab of any developer’s home page and you’ll see a huge array of artists working for them, including writers, graphic artists, environmental artists, software engineers, programmers, and much more.

Think twice next time you go to judge a gamer by his/her obsession. Your intentions and desires may not be so different.

Ritualizing Creativity

28 Feb

Have I ever told you my biggest passion in life is my writing? I haven’t?! Oooh, yeah. It’s because I’m so shy to say it.

Seriously, I have a very hard time telling people that even though I’m unemployed, I’m a full-time writer and would consider myself so even if I were otherwise employed. And here’s a funny truth: There are people who work completely unassociated jobs from 9-5, Monday-Friday and consider their real career to be writing. Then there are still others who write all day as part of their jobs but are not truly writers–not really because it’s not their passion. It’s a hard way to define yourself–this thing that most people claim as a hobby– but for me, it’s consuming and wholly encompassing. I couldn’t be myself if I wasn’t a writer. I only know my true mind when I feel my heart throbbing through my pen or when my eyes drift over some graceful line in a book. So why is it hard?

Because I don’t make any money doing it. I don’t. I very probably never will. To be completely comfortable, I’ll always need some other form of employment. People don’t usually understand defining what you do in life by an activity that doesn’t make money. I know this because I have my bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and when I mention people immediately say, “what do you plan to do with that?” If someone asked what I do and I said, “I write,” it would be as strange to them as saying, “I hike.” Of course if I said that I write, they would then ask if I was a journalist. (Or if they were really swanky types they’d ask if I blogged.) Which would lead me to the next thing.

I don’t have a routine work schedule or a very visible outcome. I don’t go to a workplace for a certain amount of hours or sit in an area of my house with a notebook from noon to three everyday. I have loose expectations for what I want done in a week and even that varies from day to day. Sometimes I will write, sometimes I edit, and other days I only research places to have my work published. This isn’t something most people can wrap their heads around and to some degree, I’m not totally comfortable with or understanding of it myself. On top of that, even when I am most successful–even when I have written something devastatingly beautiful and I’ve found the perfect place for it, and it’s been published–my work is not something the overwhelming majority of the world will ever see.ย  In fact, maybe, maybe, 1,000 people will see my masterpiece. If I get really good, that number might go up to 2,500. If I’m excellent, maybe 5,000. If I do something really big and wonderful…well, that’s not even something I can imagine right now so let’s not go there. So, I can’t just say, “Yeah, I’m a writer and you can check out what I’ve done over there.”

Anyway, this is all an aside to, hopefully, help you understand that being dedicated to art (any art!) is hard and it’s even harder to really own it. I started this blog so I could force myself out of the creative closet. I love what I do and I’m proud of it and people should know that. I’m slowly getting better about letting this little light of mine shine but what I’m really writing about today is the way that I’m making myself feel that writing is my job, nevermind justifying that to anyone else. So this post is for myself, and all the other artists in the room.

Before I graduated from my undergrad studies, an instructor put a book in my hands called The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (who is an amazing and world-renowned choreographer). The book teaches basically one thing: to truly be the thing you profess, you have to show up and do it, regularly, on-time, and bravely whether what your working on that day is divine genius or gutter trash. I struggle with this. Hard.

See, when I write, I’ll let myself finish a piece before I go back and look at it, cry my eyes out because it’s terrible, and then stress that I have no real worth as a writer at all. (And even that has been a process for me. I used to write a page, delete it, write another first page, and take out half of it.) The feelings couldn’t be less true and I have a feeling that everyone goes through this. Absolutely no one is a genius 100% of the time. For some of us, that’s a hard thing to deal with and can really damage our creative habit. Sometimes, on my floppy, uninspired days, I won’t even let myself sit down to write because the process is so frustrating but that’s not healthy. I have to get over the fear of being terrible and work through it every day–the good, bad, and wtf? days– to get to the good stuff on the other side of the ugly wall. As Bilbo sadly reflects, “adventures are not all pony-rides through May-sunshine.” When you’re on a journey, you can’t stop and hide when the path gets muddy and the sky is opening up to pour rain on your head. You can’t just wait for the sun to shine or you’ll miss the good things that are passing through just beyond the storm.

Inspiration, unfortunately, is not a fixed destination; it’s a fickle and elusive creature that you only find by continuing to look in any weather.

And I need this post. To kick me in the butt also to be a great comfort to me when I absolutely suck.

This is not the end. It will pass and you and I will go on to be geniuses some other time. So write or draw or paint or play. Dance too, even if you can’t. Even when it hurts, when you’re sick, when you’re cranky and full of excuses or distractions.

I can do it and you can too. We can own it together.