i made it

It’s been a week.


I’m taking a class called The Picturebook. Our first writing assignment was to read 2 books by each illustrator from a list, choose an image from one book from each illustrator, and write a 1-2 page analysis of that image. We had three books and one article to reference, and we needed to provide a bibliography for all the books we read, including the ones we did not write on.

Builds = critical vocabulary, ability to talk about art, exposure to a broad base of working picturebook artists, exposure to a broad number of picturebooks

This would have been fun, but the list was 60 illustrators long.

60 illustrator.

120 books.

50 papers.

50-100 pages.

7 page bibliography.

All turned in yesterday at 3:30 p.m.

And of course, there were complications.

  • Searching for books by illustrator is not quite as straightforward as searching by author. You can’t just scan the shelves alphabetically and look for names. And anyone who’s ever set foot in the youth department of a library can tell you that even if you KNOW the book is there, you can’t just scan the shelf and look for a title.
  • 120 books far outreaches the limits of a single library card. Juggling multiple accounts is neccessary, and usually involves bringing the wrong books back to the wrong library at some point
  • We also had to include an image along with each paper. 50 digital pictures/scans/photocopies to wrangle with. I actually showed up to school yesterday morning missing 2 pictures, double and triple crossing my fingers that the very specific books would be on the school library shelves and the computer with the scanner would be free.
  • Writing 50 papers takes a really long time.
  • Printing 50 papers takes a really long time, and kills a lot of trees.
  • Editing 50 papers by hand takes a really long time, but gives you something to do during your other Not So Important classes.
  • Making editing changes to 50 papers takes a really long time.
  • When you write some papers on your work computer, some papers on the library computer, and some on your laptop with Open Office, you have a big fat formatting mess.
  • Formatting 50 papers takes a really long time.
  • Getting 50 papers that have large images embedded onto a single flash drive takes a really long time, eats up your patience, and actually might be impossible.
  • Writing 50 papers that use the same quotes, talk about the same topics, and are all the same length really makes you want to tear your eyeballs out.
  • 120 picturebooks and 3 source books are really heavy. When I carry around heavy things a lot, my shoulders eventually retaliate by giving me a migraine

This is really all I have been able to think about and talk about for three or four weeks now. I have lost any semblance of listening skills or empathy or ability to hold an interesting conversation. “Hmm… hmm… that’s nice. Have you heard about this project? Oh, let me tell you all about it. It’s a doozy.”

So I thought I would tell you, Internet.

I would also like to tell you about the numerous ways stress can manifest itself physically:

  • Aforementioned beast-of-burden migraine headaches from hauling around too many picturebooks.
  • Addiction to 8:00 a.m. DoubleShots from the vending machine in the basement.
  • Emotional addiction to 8:00 a.m. DoubleShots, evident when emotional meltdowns occur when the machine is empty, or tears of joy are shed when you spot the refill man.
  • Hoarding behaviors: I have 4 DoubleShots in my work fridge at this moment.
  • Anxious, unconscious rubbing of tongue against teeth. Development of persistant, painful, and potentially cancerous mouth sores.
  • Excessive lip biting. Cannot concentrate on chewing long enough to avoid self injury.
  • A second kind of headache derived from sitting at a computer all day.
  • Nervous nausea.
  • Shooting stomach pains.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Looking a mess because you forgot to put on makeup and prioritized against showering and/or laundry.
  • Fatigue from late night tossing and turning, mind whirring with pictures and citations and illustrators…

My classmates and I rolled into class yesterday in various states of distress. I walked through the library at 3:10 or so, and I spotted at least 6 people at computers or standing next to printers with worry lines gouging their foreheads. In class, we all wore our glasses and looked smudgy and tired from forgotten makeup, frizzy-haired with headbands and winter hats indoors, and wearing that weird shirt you forgot you had and it takes you half the day to figure out you forgot about it because it makes you look like a sack of potatos.

I finished my project at quarter to 2, and decided on a whim to go downstairs to the copy center in the basement and have it BOUND. I really couldn’t figure out how to staple a 100+ pages anyway.

And then we had a nice class. Talked about Anthony Browne, looked at the color-separation acetates for a 1971 picturebook by Ellen Raskin, discussed The Easter Bunny that Overslept, and then fawned over some old picturebooks from the Simmons archives.

Randolph Caldecott. Walter Crane. Kate Greenaway.

And then we all went out for a drink.

So it’s over. Done with. I’m back. I have a lot of things to tell you about. I can’t promise you I won’t talk about picturebooks anymore, but these will be the last words I say about this project:

I have never worked so hard in my life.

And although it was painful and stressful and silly and difficult…

there was something soothing about being at the library at the same time every morning,

chipping away at this iceberg of a problem,

checking names off of my list,

knowing that if I just kept at it, eventually, I would get out.

And I did.

And it feels amazing.

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