By the time I was ready to read, the school district had expanded and Francis Steinbach was teaching in the more modern environment of an elementary school. But my instruction began in her kitchen, rather than a classroom. Sitting on her tall paint stool, I learned to read, sounding out the words. I can still picture her knobby fingers pointing out words to me, one sound at at time. The year was 1956. She was a great teacher. I was a quick study.
Her back room was lined with books. Their simple bindings had little variety. The pages were brittle and yellowed by the time I discovered them. I would lay on the guest bed reading from retired school books.
Fast-forward 56 years to 2012. An idea occurred to me that I should become a skilled journal maker. There were videos to instruct me, abundant supplies in my city, and what a great time to get serious about this skill as I was planned a visit to see my son in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I taught myself to make journals, took some along with me on my travels and exchanged them with other artisans. At one of the weekend craft booths in front of the Recoleta cemetary, I traded for a leather-bound book. The sizes of the books in the exchange were nearly identical. By the time I returned home, I had taught people from New Mexico and Nigeria to make their own books. I visited an art supply shop and discovered fibrofacil (the thinnest masonite imaginable). I waded across flooded streets, holding hands with strangers. I drew and made books. I began a journal chronicling the tale of travelling with my recently-deceased mother.
Upon my return to Seattle, I was invited to teach an evening workshop for International Night of the Book. I was hooked. I wanted to teach people to make their own journals. I taught scholars from Seattle World School, recently immigrated from China, Vietnam and Guatamala, women from across the west at a conference, and discovered a classroom I could use for Seattle classes.
My books are sized to what feels most comfortable in my hand. The paper is smooth and creamy. The covers are experiments of various types. I've begun adding elastic loops to close the books and lasso my fountain pen.
And now I write. I write freely, at all angles, and with doodles generously sprinkled throughout. I develop symbols and metaphors. I draw the same things again and again until they flow comfortably off my pen. I play with colors and capture brilliant phrases as I hear them. I exhaust a journal in four to six weeks, and as I reach the end of one book, I simply create another one.
This past winter, I began giving my books more honor than ever before. Today they sit in my bookshelf, as worthy as the "real books" that surround them.