November 20, 2005

The smell of hot wax

Friday night's poetry reading was held at local art gallery. My friend PoetWoman, who has degrees in creative writing and science and seems to be good at everything, happens to be an amazing photographer. She had come to town for the opening of a show that featured her photographs. It was great to see her, and to see her photographs nicely framed and hanging on the wall, but the other fun thing was the chance to catch up with some old friends who came the opening.

I hadn't seen Gentle Giant in a couple years. Last time I saw him, he was running a workshop for urban teenagers and I came to help the teenagers do some creative writing. We worked together years ago when I was the editor of an alternative environmental publication. Friday night, after catching up on each other's lives, we spend time reminiscing about our days doing layout. In those days, we were actually cutting galleys, waxing them, and pasting them onto grid sheets on a light table. Yes, cutting and pasting was once literal and not just a computer command.

I admit that I still think the best way to learn layout is to do it by hand, moving the sticky wax headlines and bits of stories around on the sheet. I loved the smell of the hot wax and the camaraderie of working together, talking as we concentrated, coming up with crazy headlines and getting into bouts of laughter. Gentle Giant used to drink countless cups of coffee as we worked so always that rich smell drifted over the pages. Sometimes we'd lose a headline and search the table for it, only to discover the white piece of paper stuck to my long hair.

Other friends who came to the opening were local poets. We talked about our writing, about our families, about our jobs. We compared notes on what we were going to read that night. We'd been assigned the topic of art and color. I love theme readings because it forces me to look at my work in a new way. (Art? Do I have any poems about art? Oh, yeah, I do.) We moved into a smaller room for the reading, an intimate setting with good acoustics so that no one needed a microphone.

It was the kind of relaxing evening I enjoy. We read poetry, we talked, we drank punch, and we looked at amazing photographs, all of us glowing with pride at the accomplishments of a dear friend. And then halfway through the event, PoetWoman informed me that the trays of homemade cookies on the punch table were vegan. That made a nice evening perfect.

8 comments:

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I worked on my high school newspaper, and once a month we'd go to the local newspaper office to do layout. (I didn't realize at the time how incredibly cool that was.)

I loved moving slippery headlines around, too. Also editing on the fly. Cutting an e from a leftover story to place in a different story where something'd been misspelled!

EmmaNadine said...

I used to do manual layout when I was working for an environmental group that published a monthly newspaper. Those few days each month when we were doing layout were my favorite of each month.

Laura said...

I would love to learn how to do manual layout. I teach journalism and when it comes time to talk about that part, I usually just cover headlines and skip the rest, because I have no idea how to teach it--no experience in the real thing, and no software to teach the other way either.

kathy a said...

what a wonderful time, catching up with old friends!

we did manual layout on my yearbooks, too -- on a light table, with blue grids and exacto knives and steel rulers and rubber cement. [a bad crop meant the photo crew went back to the darkroom to make another print.]

our masterpiece, the 1977-8 yearbook, was crafted so long before desktop computers that we used this huge "computerized headline" machine [borrowed from the newspaper staff] to do all the type-setting -- it was about the size of a modern commercial high-speed/high-volume copier. if i remember correctly, the machine "developed" the type and spit out something like a photograph -- but it came out like tape, which had to be cut and pasted....

this most excellent yearbook involved a year's worth of weekly dinners, wonderful ideas, late nights -- and then a few intense weeks of pasteup and fixes in summer, with a core group of people who are still dear friends. the last 5 days before deadline, i got maybe 2 hours of sleep per night. my 21st birthday involved champagne, followed by wrestling the "computerized headline" machine some more, and getting some paste-ups just right. ahh, what memories....

What Now? said...

Ah, manual layout. I worked on my high school newspaper, finally working my way up to editor-in-chief. Not that I was amazingly great at layout, I should say, but I did really enjoy creating something visual with my Exacto knife and the light-table.

Leslee said...

I could almost imagine the two of you in that layout room cutting up and having fun together.

peripateticpolarbear said...

I'm just really excited that you went to a poetry reading. And I bet you dressed right! I bet nobody thought you were the poet's aunt reading her niece's poems because the poet was a recluse, huh?

I remember manual layout, too. Ah, high school....

Yankee T said...

Sounds terrific.