Edited to add: The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet is now on sale! I don't want to break the community rules by linking to it here, but you can find it in your favorite online or brick-and-mortar bookstore.
As a writer living in Portland, OR, I always look forward to Wordstock
, the city's largest annual book festival. One of the festival's highlights is the Text Ball
, a literary-themed costume party thrown by the Independent Publishing Resource Center
. Guests of this prom for word geeks are encouraged to attend "with text as part of their attire," and the theme for this year's ball was A Novel Idea
As it happened, I had a three-inch-thick stack of my own "novel idea"--the second-pass pages from my upcoming historical novel, The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet
. Second-pass pages are the final step before a book is bound into ARCs (sometimes called "uncorrected proofs" or "galleys") and sent out to reviewers. They have the layout and typeset of the finished book, but on unbound, single-sided printer pages.
I was watching Project Runway's paper dress challenge
when it came to me--I should make my Text Ball costume out of the pages of my own book! It semed like a creative and fun way to promote the novel at the festival. I would invite people to pluck a page at random off my skirt to keep and read!
First I printed black-and-white images of the cover art onto the backs of the first-pass pages by running them face-down through my printer. Then I cut the pages down to the actual book-size, a bit smaller than the printouts.
I had the green velvet renaissance-style gown and lace-up bodice already (I used to perform twisting balloons at children's birthday parties, and have a ridiculous variety of odd costume pieces in the back of my closet, "just in case."). But how to attach them to the gown so they could be easily removed? The answer: six boxes of fancy brass paperclips and my trusty needle-and-thread.
Yep--I hand-sewed more than 250 paperclips
individually onto the dress, one-at-a-time. I also made a "fringe" around the bottom of the bodice, then stuck in overlapping layers of promotional postcards to give it the stiff shape of an Elizabethan farthingale, to match the book's Shakespearean theme.
The stick-on letters wouldn't stay stuck to the velvet bodice, so I sewed them down as well. Then I curled each page around a pencil-thick dowel to give it some shape and volume and began hanging them from the paperclips.
I finally finished the project with barely an hour to spare before the ball. (Where are Cinderelly's mice when you really need them, right!?) Here's a pic of me modeling the final result:
Of course, I then had to remove and carefully pack the gown into trashbags to take it to the ball (well I certainly wasn't going to be able to drive in the thing, or even sit in a cab!). Here's me getting dressed in the parking lot of the venue, which on a cold and rather windy night was a barrel of laughs, let me tell you. I lost a page or two to sudden gusts. But at least it wasn't raining!
The dress was actually quite comfortable, and the pages held surprisingly well until they were plucked, though every time I moved I made a sound like an Aspen tree. I was even able to dance, though I felt a bit like Ginger Rogers in Top Hat
when I did!
Best of all for a shy, introverted writer-type like me, I was able to promote my book without having to approach people--strangers came up to me and asked about it! Everyone wanted to pluck a page, and since each one was different, there was a fortune-cookie feel as well, with people asking each other "What didja get?" or saying "Ooh, mine's a sex scene!"
Here I am back home again at the end of the night, stripped of all my pages. But now that the hard part--sewing on all 250 paperclips!--is done, it would be a relatively simple matter to make new printouts and re-attach them for another event. I really enjoy these sorts of weird-materials costumes--I don't think I've had this much fun with a craft project since my Dollar Store Wedding Gown!