Making Our First Book

We had never made a print on demand book before, so wanted to test it out before we start working with people in the care homes to create their own reminiscence books.

Barney and I are brother and sister, but we also work regularly with other members of our family, including our parents, Pip and Ali Heywood. We developed a show with our Dad Pip last year, called The Eye of the Hare, which is an autobiographical piece about aspects of his life. It’s a one-man show with him on stage reading extracts and stories from a book he has been writing combined with film and audio clips.

As we have all the material and multimedia for The Eye of the Hare already, we decided to use that to create our initial prototype book. So, the three of us got together with the script and media from the show and tried to figure out how to turn it into an interactive book.

We looked through various print on demand book services and eventually settled on one called Bob Books, which seemed to offer what we wanted: coffee table style books (hard cover or paperbacks) with words and images.

We systematically went through the play, trying to stick to its tried and tested structure, but editing and changing the material for this new format as we went. At each stage, we thought about how we might translate what we were doing to a more general context. Was there a task that could allow someone else to create something similar about them? One example of this was a poem Dad wrote called Home. As Home is such a big reminiscence theme, one task under that heading could be to write a poem titled Home.

We learnt lots of things from creating our first print on demand book. One was that it is not a simple process to lay out a book. There are design decisions that need to be made all the way through. We would like all the books to look beautiful, but also want eventually to make something that anyone can use – without the need for a graphic designer. One potential solution to this is that we create a design template for each task.

In terms of the structure of the books, we would like to take our observations about memory and some of what we have learnt from working on The Eye of the Hare to inform this. Memories are often fleeting, incomplete and disordered. We don’t reminiscence in chronological order, but rather in a disjointed, fragmented fashion. The show has a fragmented structure, moving forwards and backwards in time, but retaining a sense of story through the development of characters and themes. The structure of the book mirrors this, and is something that we would like to extend to the books we make with the older people. We plan to approach this in the formula for creating a book by asking people to complete as many tasks as they like in whichever order they choose. Towards the end of the process, we then plan to ask people to put the results into whatever order they think feels right. This could be chronological, if they want it to be, or jumbled up, like memories. This is one of the things we are now looking forward to discussing and trying with the older people…hopefully starting next week with two residents from Blaise Weston, when prototype book number one should have been delivered.