My hard drive hates you and other things I learned

Things I learned doing production for Anomalous 3:

1. Back up.

My hard drive hates me. It might also hate you. I think they come pre-filled with hate, at least the replacement hard drives do. It’s in a 6 year old MacBook, which apparently they don’t even make anymore, which is bullshit. It’s also died three times in the past two years, and always right before a major deadline. The first time it was a paper for a class. Last time it was just before we launched Anomalous 2. And now, again, before we launched Anomalous 3. I lost the layout, all of it, for the pdf and ebook formats. Which take a LONG. ASS. TIME. to make.

2. Everything takes longer than you think it will, longer than you think it will, longer than you think it will.

This kernal of wisdom comes courtesy of the wonderous A. Kendra Greene, who taught me this as a little song while I was learning to letterpress print. But it’s equally true for the handmade digital book.

3. The work will surprise me.

Every time. There are pieces I love on the first read. There are pieces I gradually fall in love with, over several readings. And then there are the pieces I totally don’t get. One of the reasons I have such faith in my editors is that they can spot those pieces for me, and pull them out and shove them under my nose until I get it. And that happens when you read over and over and over as you must do in producing and editing and proofreading a journal. Putting out Anomalous, I read each piece at least half a dozen times, far more than any sane reader would ever. And I read them in order (which usually another editor arranges). And I start to notice threads that tie pieces together, and lines or phrases jump out and kick me in the face with their beauty. It’s an amazing process, and as painfully long and repetitive as it can be, I love it.

4. The audio changes everything.

Talk about work surprising you. One of the things I like best in production is editing the audio files, because I get to listen to each author present their work in their voice. By this point I’ve read most pieces a few times, and hear them a certain way. And then wham! The rhythms change, the sounds fill my brain, and I think “holy shit, I wouldn’t have gotten that if I hadn’t heard them read it.” For example, Mani Rao reading her Guru – hymn sounds badass in ways I hadn’t realized it could.

5. I forget things fast if I don’t do them often.

So for Anomalous 1 I taught myself how to do ebooks. And I’m still learning how to do it, and make it look the way I really truly want. I still feel happier with the PDF than the ebook. But I think the possibilities for ebooks as a medium are about to explode, and I want to learn how to do it. But I haven’t really done any ebooks since Anomalous, and it’s so much code, so much outside my comfort zone, that I’ve basically had to re-learn it each. freaking. time. Ugh.

6. At some point, I have to stop caring.

Not that I don’t want to create the best possible issue. But how much time is too much time to futz with how the code of the epub passes third-party validation checks? I’m not even sure how relevant this is to people being able to use them! At some point, so long as all the content looks good and is error free (well, so much as I can get it, I’m sure I always miss something…) it has to be done, and out there in the world to be read and loved. So there!

Speaking of which, the other versions of Anomalous 3 are finally done and ready to be downloaded in all their epub/Kindle/audiobook/PDF goodness.

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