There are a few people like this: we live apart, in different states, in different countries, yet it doesn't matter if we can't see each other, a friend is a friend is a friend. Forever. Ken is a friend. One who never liked hugging or effusive behavior. Who would look at you quizzically, if you told him that you would miss him over Winter break and say: "Really?" forcing you to admit that yes, it was just a figure of speech. You were going home, your were rejoining your high school sweetheart, of course you weren't literally going to miss him. But the truth is, I do miss you Ken, really, I do.
No one else could make me laugh with a story which should make anyone cry. When Ken got sick I needed to DO something, to MAKE something. This is what I did.
Step 1: The Idea
That's when my brilliant (yes, brilliant) idea struck me: forget words! I would take a picture, I would show Ken where I was when I was thinking of him. I would also ask all his friends, all over the world, to do the same. Then I would make a book with all our pictures to send to him. Then I would sell the book, and give the profits directly to him.
Though he had never said a word about it, I could figure out the math. Primary bread winner gets sick. Spouse must take care of two young children and husband, so can't work either. Income = minus, expenses = plus. This is a common math formula when illness strikes.
Step 2: Getting Pictures
That said, Facebook and other social networks are very useful tools for getting people together. I posted my request for photos on Ken's wall, and I was thrilled by the diverse response. Though I'd said the only necessary caption was the time and place of photograph taken while thinking of Ken, some pictures needed explanations, and some of those pictures with their explanations, were quite moving, others kind of silly and sweet, and all were interesting. Personalities shone through. More than twenty years later, many friends from our college freshman year dorm had a virtual reunion. The same cooky, wonderful people. I miss all of you.
When soliciting participation, be prepared to to a little nagging... even with the best intentions, life has a tendency to get in the way and some people who had promised to send me pictures needed gentle reminders. It doesn't mean they don't care, just that they're busy. Also sometimes, some people deal with unhappy events by putting them out of their minds. Oh, what's the point of hiding behind generalities? I do that. I bury myself in work rather than confront the ugly truth. Sometimes. Still, sooner or later, we all need to face reality.
Step 3: Laying Out the Book
Other companies, such as Blurb or Lulu will let you print books for yourself (in many different formats), order as many (or few) copies you desire, and allow you to sell them to others with the markup you choose. I have used Lulu regularly because the prices are excellent, and the website is well designed. The one time I had a problem with the printing quality they were quick to replace the product at no cost... But I digress. You need to choose your printer before you do the layout because each company has different formats and specs you will need to follow.
Since I like to control my layouts precisely I used InDesign, but there are many other programs you can use. You can also skip these page layout programs altogether and use the online photo book templates your chosen publisher doubtless has on their website. Photo books tend to be slightly more expensive than a full color "regular" book (even though the printing quality is the same), which is another reason I do my own layouts.
Step 4: Publishing the Book
For mine I superimposed a scan of Ken's brain over our lonely little planet. To be honest I worry that it's a little creepy, but no one has said anything so far....
You will also need to set a price. I chose to set mine so that for each copy purchased, a little over $5 will go straight into Ken's Paypal account. What I really wanted was for people to be able to choose their price so they could donate whatever they could, but that isn't an option yet on any website I've seen.
You can check out my book here. Click on "preview" to see the interior.
Step 5: Conclusion
- For those of us who were too far to offer any practical help like childcare, raking leaves or lasagna baking, snapping photos provided a relief from feelings of helplessness. If you are on this site, chances are you will understand how satisfying and therapeutic making something can be.
- It brought long lost friends, but also strangers together. Social and family capital have been proven to improve health. It's no joke. Marriage (including civil unions, I'm sure) prolongs life. There have been serious scientific studies on this issue, and if I weren't on a deadline to enter this health contest I would post the relevant links...
- Hopefully, this project will provide Ken and his family a little financial aid. As I mentioned in the last step all proceeds from the printed book (or downloads) will go to Ken, but also, if I win this contest (HINT, HINT) the prize will go to him too.