Activities · How-To

Working for a Workshop is (Fun) Work

It all started with this book.


I made it. As in I put cardboard, fabric, glue, thread, and paper together and made a functional journal. I made it as part of a workshop a couple years ago now, and recently dug it out to start doing a practice promotes by my local writer’s group called Daily Pages (it is as it sounds – you write daily, but of course one needs a dedicated Place to do this). Fellow members of said group asked me about the journal, and I of course told them way more than they really wanted to know (spoiler alert: I love bookbinding).

Fast forward a couple months. I’m talking to the leader of our group, Bronwyn, about the upcoming writing retreat she’s leading as part of her work as a writing coach. It will be my first writing retreat, and I’m so excited, but I also like to have A Job To Do. So I ask her, how can I help during the retreat? She floats the idea of me leading a workshop to make handmade journals, similar to the one in which I made my yellow journal. UM YES PLEASE-ahem. Sure, I could do that.

I get the parameters: these are to be Daily Pages journals, so at least 90 pages, two different sizes please. Of course, one cannot just choose dimensions out of thin air and start tearing down paper and cutting down binder’s board willy-nilly. This takes research. Math! Prototypes.

Prototypes must include chickens. It’s a RULE.

After much calculating, cutting, tearing, gluing, and sewing, I made one book. One. I then start doing the math of how many pieces I need to have ready for my fellow retreat-goers to also make books, with a reasonable margin of extras for snafus or an overabundance of interest. This was about a week or two before we were to leave for the retreat.

Packing lists and checklists = life.

I tell you this because in spectacular Jacquelyn form, I procrastinated. On Tuesday (we left on Thursday) I actually start the process of cutting and tearing down the board and papers. How long could this take me? I think as I work late into the night.

Wednesday morning, and there is still SO. MUCH. TO. PREP. My mom comes over to assist with kidlet watching, and I impress her into prep service. Well, sorta. I asked her and she said yes. We both work all day and into the night.

We’ve lost track of the hours out of self preservation.

My mom bravely continues until she is exhausted and has to go to bed. I trudge through until I have finally, FINALLY, gotten all 250 page spreads torn down, folded, and assembled into signatures. I pack them all up, checking my list 57385 times because if I forget something, I will be PISSED.

So much work in such a small package.

Travel to the retreat goes without issue, thankfully. When we arrive, I double check my lesson plan because 1. I can’t ever leave a plan alone because it might change when I wasn’t looking and 2. who knows what that crazy past Jacquelyn thought was a good idea and she needs someone to check her work. I make changes (because otherwise that time I just spent reading it all would have been wasted, duh) and then realize, spines. I forgot to cut out spines for the books!

Luckily, I had extra lightweight cardboard in my case (yeah, I don’t know why either), and was able to cut those puppies out. Phew.

Cardboard was tasted for my safety by kittens.

Now, all I had to do was teach 5 people how to make books in two two-hour chunks. Easy-peasy, I hope?

For the conclusion, tune in next week!

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