Sound it Out

readingtime Margaret Zuzu and I are working on reading right now.

(Yes, Margaret Zuzu. Lately, she’s been asking the adults in her life to only call her Margaret. Which I love. But then I think, but what about Zuzu? Are we leaving that behind all together? Let’s not do that, alright? So then I call her Margaret Zuzu, which is lovely and her whole name, but also kind of an onerous title to have to shout across a grocery aisle. Which means at some point I’ll stop doing it and Zuzu will rest in between the beginning and end of her name, which is where I put it, but the silent sound it will make saddens me nonetheless.)

Anyways, we’re opening up the language of the written word and it’s been a bit terrifying and a lot exhilarating and full of rules that make sense and rules that don’t. Her favorite bits of the exploration of the written language are the minutes we spend with our Bob Books each day. Little paperback things with stories as colorful as their covers, Margaret (Zuzu) has felt the triumph of early literacy as she’s read words without help and laughed at silly situations the symbols on the page gave form. (Isn’t it amazing that letters are symbols? You and I practice the art of symbology any time we scribble a grocery list, tap out a text or write another entry into our journal.)

Margaret (Zuzu) is now pretty certain she’s got this reading thing down and in her sureness has begun to trip ahead of the words on the page. Making up words and sentences based on what she thinks or wishes to be there rather than what actually is. When I correct her, ask her to linger longer on the letters and their sounds, she laughs and tries again. Today was not really any different as we went back over words and sentences, she was happy and savored the real story just as surely as the parallel on that ran in her head.

It was a lesson to me. I’ve spent the past several months trying to finish my life’s sentences. Anticipating events and meaning and punctuation and content, I’ve lost my place. Perhaps it will be all so much better, so much more comprehensible if I simply sound out everything as I go.

And when I forget myself and run ahead until I trip,  I’ll look back to that little girl with those little books and laugh and try again.

And again.

At the Press

I went to a conference for bloggers way back in January. It was full of fabulous people with fabulous hair and fabulous ideas. Many of the attendees were of the design/craft blogger variety and, while I felt totally welcome, I also felt a bit out of place. I am writer that doesn't own a glue gun or one piece of neon clothing. No, not one. Everything those great girls with red lips and top knots talked about was a little outside my realm of understanding. (Wait. I am supposed to style my pictures? How is washi tape any different than scotch tape? What the hell is a bounce rate and will it affect my credit???)

By my third class, I had decided that I would leave the conference with good friends, good memories and very little practical (for my pursuits) knowledge. It was not such a bad realization. I like good friends and I like good memories. Also? The food was included in admission and there was a lot of it. A recipe for success, as far as I am concerned.

On the first day we were all gathered into a big ballroom for a meal and our first key note speaker. I sat next to my dear friend Ashley and chatted with her in between enormous bites of clear broth soup, sushi and salad. I would like to defend the amount I ate at that meal by pointing out that the food, while delicious, had about the same mass and stomach filling potential as a large bowl of air. However, I eat that way anytime I am presented with free could have been steak and eggs, I would tucked in just as prodigiously.

Anyways, somewhere between my first bite and the sushi roll I stole from Amy ("are you going to eat that?"), I started listening to the speaker. The good man was saying some very interesting things.

He talked about this amazing age of industry we have entered into together. A time of around the world flights and 3D printers. It is the first time in history that the means of production have belonged to the single man rather than just the ruling body or giant business. He talked about innovators and dreamers.

And then he talked about movable type.

The Gutenberg Bible was published around 1454. The first major book printed on movable type in the west, it was a work of genius, beauty and complete exhaustion. This masterwork, this leap into a world captured on print, didn't just take some time, it was the work of a lifetime.

Of course, once Johannes Gutenberg had perfected the art of movable type, the real work began. Each printing of the bible required an estimated 100,000 individual sorts of type. Setting a single page could take as long as half a day and the intricacies of printing required at least 25 craftsmen working on the bible at all times. The simple act of publishing one book took the combined effort of nearly thirty individuals, immense sums of money and a certainty that the book published would be of interest to enough people to justify the man labor and printing costs. It is estimated that the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible cost 30 florins, the equivalent of three years wages for a clerk at the time.

Consequently, the only major works published for centuries were the ones that were of interest to and approved by the ruling classes.

Today? Today we each have the power of creation and dissemination in our own homes. The days of approved messages and limited information are long gone. We live in a time when those 25 craftsmen and long days of type setting have been replaced by the "publish" buttons on our blogs, websites and phones. My goodness. The glory of it all! The joy of creating a message and sending it out into a world! It is such a great gift and such a great responsibility. It leaves us each to beg the question, what are we creating each day? And, perhaps more importantly, what creations do we partake of each day?

At this point I was crying into my plate, my tears puddling into a dark pool of soy sauce. It was not pretty, but it was happy. I know I will never create anything as beautiful and lasting as the Gutenberg Bible, not even close. But I am blessed to live in a time that allows me, and others, to try.

I learned two important lessons that day,

1.When you are surrounded by people who are passionate about their craft, even when it is so different than your own, you will always learn something.

2. It is always OK to cry into a plate of free food. Especially when you know they will be serving lavender hot chocolate and cookies within the hour.

Here's to a day of creation and passionate consumption (whether of food or books or both is completely up to you).