October 15, 2013

In the Land of Light Part 2


In the late 1970s and the very early 80′s my life financially and emotionally was very difficult. I was continually struggling to pay my bills and I often found myself a continual disappointment to my mother, my in-laws, and many around me.

I was continually rejected for my work and my life choices, by many around me, and it was only my wife who without failure continually sustained and believed in me.

The daily routine was a call from my mother stating her disappointment in me for choosing such a useless occupation. It was time to come to my senses and find a real job.

And with all this as background noise, something wonderful happened. I was getting my first book published by a distinguished editor and publisher, and to show their faith in me I would be receiving a $5,000 advance (half of my yearly salary).

I can remember feeling overwhelming elation and enormous relief that someone actually believed in me and in fact was willing to pay me for my vision.

Everything was going well. I had the editor I dreamed about, the designer I wanted, and the printer I requested. As usual I was putting my heart and it’s very soul into the making of this book. Nothing that I could do was spared. Even my mother for the moment stopped her relentless criticism of me.

Finally we were ready to print the book and off to Medford, Massachusetts I went. I was there to help oversee the printing of the book along with the production people from the publisher.

Like the proofs we had done some months before the first forms of the book came out looking beautiful. I remember starring at them and smiling to myself. The work required deep rich shadow detail and a luminosity in the highlights. It was all there. A deep rich evocation of emotion. The color of the ink was a warm vibrant black.

Each form that came out of the presses that day seemed to match the others in contrast and shadow separation. I supervised the printing nudging more ink on some forms less on others, but overall the pressman on our press seemed to get me and together we were humming along beautifully. He too was very proud of the sheets his press was rolling off the line. We became quite a team.

At the end of the first day I went back to the hotel content and very happy. All the years of work were in these pages and everything was as I had hoped. Finally I felt I was ready to meet the world in my best clothes and with my shoes shined.

The next morning I returned and looked at the forms we had printed the previous day, and all that I had loved in the images was gone. The sheets had dried down flat and had simply gone dead. The ink instead of remaining on the surface had for some reason been absorbed into the paper (perhaps humidity in the air) and as a result the images looked lifeless. I was beside myself.

I confronted the production people from the publisher and said we had to reprint. After this confrontation I was officially and very bluntly told by a senior person at the publisher along with my editor that under no circumstances would the publisher stop the printing or pay any additional costs. From their point of view they had done all they could, and besides to them the printing looked fine if not beautiful and I was told I was simply being too emotional.

For the entire day and well into the late of night we continued printing with the same results occurring. Beautiful at first unacceptable at last.

It all came to a finality at 3AM one morning when we were printing some of the same images that had been made on the press proof, and I was alone on the press with the original pressman this whole process began with.

I asked him quietly and honestly which looked better the initial press proofs we had made some months earlier or what we were printing now? By about 5AM the sheet had dried down and together we looked at both sheets, and he said quietly without question that the original press proofs looked better when compared side by side.

That did it! I knew I wasn’t just making noise and being too emotional. I stopped everything. The next morning the production supervisor from the publisher came rushing into the press room screaming at me that I was being bared from the press and that I should leave immediately. I was obviously not making any friends.

I had already cost them substantial money by stopping the press and she was furious.

I replied to her “I’m sorry you are so angry at me but the printing is simply not good enough! It should be better.” I called the owner of the press over to join our heated conversation and he and the pressman discussed everything.

They came back an hour later and said in their opinion there was only one thing that they could try to save the printing and to restore it to what we originally produced. They suggested running all the sheets through the press one additional time and applying an off-line gloss varnish to the images only. They tried it on one sheet and voila, it worked.

My images once again became powerful and alive. The publisher said they could not afford one more cent and did not feel it necessary. They still felt the printing was sufficient or good enough, which is a term I do not accept.

I asked how much it would cost and was told that the off-line varnish would cost an additional $5,000.

With my advance check still warm in my pocket from receiving it earlier in the week with a nice note from my editor, I endorsed it over to the printer, and although I lost financial security for some months I gained a book that I was truly proud of.

Upon hearing this my editor Nan called me and asked me if this was all right. She knew how important the money was in my life. I guess easy come easy go.




  1. I want to believe that would have done just as well

    Comment by Roman Lavrov — October 15, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

  2. I love the way you tell stories…

    Comment by chad — October 16, 2013 @ 12:04 am

  3. this book is on its way to my house as we speak. I can’t wait to see the finished product!

    Comment by alan so — October 16, 2013 @ 3:39 am

  4. It would have still bothered you today.

    Comment by fred — October 16, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

  5. Thank you for the honesty, it is a comfort to know that you also experience the dollars versus the exquisite production that should be produced without the drama.

    Comment by Terry Winn — October 19, 2013 @ 3:53 am

  6. That spider-twine like connection between creation and creator…we are forever married to our art, whatever it may be, for better or worse, richer or poorer.

    Comment by Vesa Lee — October 20, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

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  8. wow… some inspirational read for me… a hard journey and decision shape someone…

    Comment by Fikree — November 1, 2013 @ 1:18 am

  9. Thank you for this story. A strong Roark moment……

    Comment by Salima — December 8, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

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