I had a photo and a general vision for how I wanted the cover to look, and a graphic designer friend, Julie Rubtchinsky, made it happen.
First, about the photo. These are my students. Do they look like students? It was a day of celebration they called Letsatsi la Moetlo, or Cultural Day, where they each dressed like a different character found in Lesotho: miners, boys just finished with initiation, girls just finished with initiation, ntlamu dancers, shepherds, mothers, fathers, and on and on. At the point this photo was taken, we were all marching through the village toward the chief’s house. That was how we started the day.
Here’s a photo of me with Chief Thabo once we arrived at his house.
(Both this photo and the cover photo were taken by a student named Lerato Thaki.)
And about the design for the book cover. I chose the typeface Ride My Bike because I thought it looked a little bit like chalk written on the road. It also looked like it could be words coming from the silhouetted boy’s mouth. Julie took the typeface and the photo and wrapped it around, manipulated this and that, rearranged some words on the back, thickened a font, extended a line, and did some other magic on her Mac until it became what it is. She has a design company called Open Swim Creative, and I think she did a great job.
A couple more tidbits that you might never know: The mountain in the background is Kolo Mountain. And if you look at the spine of the print copy of the book, you mostly see one girl; that girl is the chief’s daughter, Nthabiseng Mokhele.
I had edited the manuscript innumerable times — spellchecked, considered grammar, etc — but when I got the proof copy in the mail little errors popped up all over the pages. Well, not all over. It’s just that I expected there to be none, and there were more than a couple.
Still, the proof copy of the book looks like a book. That was the amazing part: seeing the manuscript transform from the computer screen to physical pages. The friends who saw it thought the same. They said, “It’s . . . a book! A real book!”
I’m glad I took the time to read the whole thing through, correct the mistakes, and resubmit my files. Books live a long time. Typos and such inevitably creep into every book, but the fewer the less distracting to the story, the message.
Today the manuscript and cover images got submitted for review. Hopefully, by New Year’s I’ll have a proof copy arrive in the mail. This is a huge milestone. I’ve written and edited, and had people read and send feedback, and edited some more for years, and at last I’ve sent the hundreds of pages off for the final step before the book is out in the world and, in a sense, no longer mine anymore. It deserves a celebration.
So I went to In-N-Out. I got a cheeseburger, fries, and a strawberry shake, and I brought into the restaurant my friend Nate Denver’s new book, Haunted Armor. Both the meal and opening up Nate’s book were my rewards for finishing my material for submission.
I loved the idea that as my own book is on the cusp of publication, I got to dig into a friend’s fresh creativity. The cover is gorgeously original, and every 50-word story within was packed with enough provocation that I only got through nine before I slurped the bottom of my shake.
Then I looked up to find an In-N-Out worker at my table. “Hi. I wanted to give you this card from the company and say, Merry Christmas,” she said. I recognized her because earlier she had asked me how my meal was. I said thanks and wished her a Merry Christmas too. I opened the envelope and inside was a custom In-N-Out card showing a scene with snow falling over the iconic palm trees of the company’s logo. I opened the card and covering both pages were signatures in different pens and in different colors from a few dozen employees.
Merry Christmas and Happy Submission Day.