The first book I compiled was a tiny stapled notebook I filled with dull grey pencil called ‘CHESS HINTS’ at age 10. My brother and I played chess avidly although he, being younger, smarter and as a result a consistent winner, was more avid than I. Still, the game was a perfect subject for a booklet, the rules are concise and I kept to the facts. I still have the booklet in a box of childhood memrobilia.
Another project I became oddly obsessed with, at the same age, was mapping the streets of Cambridge. My memories are vague but I recall walking the length and breadth of the city with a ruled school exercise book, pencilling in all the roads, parks and landmark buildings. I didn’t know where this innate curiosity would lead but now I realize it was a first step toward my later guidebook projects.
High school presented a new opportunity as a nascent publisher. Somewhere early in the school year in Upper 6th From (Grade 13 equivalent) the idea of a school newspaper or magazine surfaced. I was immediately smitten by the idea and could hardly contain my excitement. That was quickly followed by disappointment as the job of editor was handed to the Head Boy, a clever fellow – Guy Garrod, essentially by default.
Nevertheless I talked my way into the project and went all in. My girlfriend Francince typed up stories, some not a little inspired by MAD magazine, cover art was crafted by the talented Karen Greenwell: a cheeky insect caricature of a gnat to go with the title ‘General News and Trivia’ and I pasted up the layout which was printed on the school office Xerox.
We sold much of the first edition at parent-teacher night by donation and needless to say it was a resounding financial success and funded a hell of a 6th form Christmas party! Subsequent editions followed ‘Super GNAT 2′ and “The GNAT Bites Back’, but we never quite reached that initial high bar set by the initial offering.
So when I get asked how I got into publishing I can honestly say it’s been something I’ve been interested in since childhood. The modern process is obviously all computer based with unbelievably sophisticated software for layout, design and illustration, but the fundamental drive to compile and satisfaction of completing a project is very much the same as it was with pencil and notebook.